Hunger is biting deeper and deeper throughout most of the Southern Africa region. Following years of insufficient harvests due to a combination of droughts, floods, and political events, the shortage of food has created a serious famine situation. It is estimated that at least 11 million people will need to receive food aid in the next 6 months. It is clear that the amount of food available locally and in the donors' pipelines is far from being sufficient to ensure that all the people in need will receive food. If nothing is done very quickly, large scale starvation will occur in the whole region.
Six countries forecast significant food shortages: Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique. For these countries, the food pipeline will need to be increased to about 100,000 metric tonnes per month within the next 6 months.
Although the worst is yet to come, by August and September - the end of winter here in Southern Africa - it is clear that the total amount of food available locally as well as by donors will be far from sufficient to ensure that all hungry people throughout the region receive food. Already, some food supply lines are experiencing severe difficulties, increasing the risk of large scale starvation.
Crop assessments in above mentioned-countries are nearing completion but it is already known that Malawi is facing its worst hunger crisis in 50 years, affecting almost three-quarters of its 11 million strong population. In Zimbabwe, the politically motivated land invasions coupled with an inflation rate of around 120 per cent have compounded the situation. In Zambia an estimated 1.2 million people have been affected by hunger. In Mozambique the devastating floods of early 2000 turned into breeding grounds for insects - including locusts - which fed on the surviving crops.
Even in the two small land-bound countries of Lesotho and Swaziland people are suffering from serious food shortages and an increasingly large percentage of the population is in dire need of food aid.
An added fear for Southern Africa is a potential El Nino-induced drought at the end of the year in the main summer grain-growing season.
World Vision has been involved in food distributions in the six countries for quite some time now. In Lesotho for instance, World Vision is busy distributing 850 tonnes of food, in Malawi we distributed 5,000 tonnes from the World Food Programme (WFP) and are in major discussions with USAID. In neighbouring Mozambique World Vision just finished distributing 6,000 tonnes of WFP food whereas we are busy distributing 3000 tonnes in Zambia. In Zimbabwe we are still distributing part of a 32,600 tonne consignment and in Swaziland, World Vision is partnering with the Swazi Government and so far has distributed 6195 bags of maize.
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