Lesotho + 5 more

Crisis Alert! Millions face starvation in southern Africa

Situation Report
Originally published
According to the World Food Program, an estimated 20 million people in the southern African countries of Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Zambia, Mozambique, and Swaziland face starvation in the coming months if sufficient outside food is not supplied.
Heather Robinson/OXFAM

A field of corn, withered by the three-year drought.

In some communities, children and old people are now dying, while the millions with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses are among the most vulnerable. Desperate families walk for miles in search of food, carrying children who can no longer walk because they are too weak. Many have been reduced to eating unripe produce or poisonous berries that must be boiled to become edible. The landscape is parched by a 3-year drought that has shriveled crops so many times that grain reserves have all been depleted.

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Oxfam has worked for decades in southern Africa, forming close relationships with many local organizations that are our partners fighting poverty and exclusion in the region. Our long-term work supports poor communities striving to gain political leadership and ensure their protection through legal reform. Because of their strong community presence, Oxfam's partners are well-positioned to distribute food and emergency supplies in the short term, followed by tools, seeds, and other materials needed to reestablish livelihoods for people who have sold off everything they have to stay alive.

The Crisis is Enormous!

According to the World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 4 million tons of food will have to be imported into southern Africa to avert a catastrophic loss of life. According to their report, "The longest dry spell experienced in Zimbabwe in 20 years has made the food situation especially dire." The crisis is made worse by the high rate of HIV/AIDS in the region, which has weakened the population and made many more susceptible to the dangers of malnutrition, including death. Without question, in a region long used to climatic disasters, the current situation is worsened by political and economic instability, including mismanagement of grain reserves.

Read a first-hand report, "Staving off starvation in Zimbabwe", from Oxfam America's Leonard Maveneka to learn more about the crisis and Oxfam's work.

For more information, read the USAID-OFDA "Southern Africa--Complex Food Security Crisis Fact Sheet #3".

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