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Southern Africa: Region not expected to benefit from new US/UK food aid funding

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JOHANNESBURG, 10 June (IRIN) - Although the United States and the United Kingdom have announced substantial funding for food aid programmes in the Horn of Africa, appeals for assistance in Southern Africa remain largely underfunded.

A US press statement noted that on 7 June President George Bush announced an additional $674.4 million in emergency aid funding for Africa this year, while British Prime Minister Tony Blair simultaneously increased emergency aid to Africa to a total of $300 million.

However, the level of assistance for alleviating Southern Africa's worsening humanitarian crisis has not improved.

"It's unfortunate that it's only the fairly high-profile emergencies, such as Darfur, Ethiopia and Eritrea, that are receiving these funds, as there is a silent emergency in Southern Africa - due to HIV/AIDS, erratic weather and weak economies - that is claiming more lives on a daily basis," World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Mike Huggins told IRIN.

He said funding for WFP's programmes in Southern Africa was "absolutely drastic at this stage", with needs expected to increase sharply in the year ahead.

"Millions of people will be receiving ration cuts from July, or we will have the rather daunting task of having to decide who is more hungry and reduce the number of beneficiaries. We have received just 20 percent - $57 million - of the $247 million we required to meet the current levels of need, and we are anticipating that over the year ahead 7 million to 10 million people are going to need assistance; a marked increase [from the 3.5 million presently in need]," Huggins noted.

He said aid agencies had estimated that 3.5 million people would need assistance this year while they recovered from the poor harvest in 2004. But "suddenly the erratic weather resulted in massive crop failures across the region" this year, driving up food aid needs as donors focused attention on more widely publicised crises elsewhere in the world.

Crop and food supply assessment missions have been undertaken or scheduled for most countries in Southern Africa, and their results are expected to point to a sharp increase in food aid needs.

[ENDS]

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