Lesotho + 5 more

Humanitarian crisis in Southern Africa: The EU's response rises to EUR 412 million

Brussels, 13 March 2003 - In response to the continuing humanitarian crisis in Southern Africa, the European Union's (EU) combined contribution from the Commission and Member States has risen to €412 million for the six most affected countries1. This response covers approximately 40 % of the total needs for the region. €186.6 million of this amount is managed directly by the European Commission and is made up of food and humanitarian aid, including emergency distribution of seeds and fertilisers and specific programmes in the health, education and agricultural sectors2. More than 6 million people are benefiting from the Commission's response alone.

Southern Africa is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, comprising a dramatic food security situation compounded by bad weather, political and economic problems and the deep impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The Commission recognises that the crisis is as much man-made as natural. Nor is this crisis a mere cyclical accumulation of circumstances but, rather, a structural humanitarian crisis that may well last for some time. Governments of the countries concerned need to firmly assume their respective responsibilities and address the underlying structural issues of poverty.

The Commission response includes 277,000 metric tonnes of food aid nearly all of which has been purchased in Southern and East Africa. Most of the food is being distributed between December 2002 and April 2003, which is considered as the most critical (hunger) period. At present approximately 6 million people affected by this crisis - including around 3 million children - are benefiting from emergency food aid assistance from the Commission in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi. The total number of people affected by the crisis is estimated at 15.25 million.

Humanitarian aid includes nutritional surveillance, supplementary feeding, therapeutic feeding and home based care programmes for the chronically ill and HIV/AIDS patients. Furthermore, procurement of agricultural inputs, water and sanitation improvements are being financed. In Zimbabwe, the Commission supports the collective capacity of the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners to transparently distribute food aid and to monitor effectively its non-partisan distribution. In this country, the Commission also continues to finance programmes that directly benefit the population, including support to the health sector (purchase of essential drugs and medical supplies).

In Malawi, the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) established in 2002 a major nutrition programme, which is already proving effective. A cholera preparedness plan has been implemented which is reducing considerably the incidence of cholera in this country.

The humanitarian crisis in Southern Africa is not yet over and it is feared that 2003 will be no better than 2002 in some countries. The European Commission is particularly worried about the continuing rapid deterioration of the Zimbabwean economy and agricultural production and its negative impact on the entire region. Zimbabweans now represent half of the people in need of emergency aid in the region. This proportion will probably be greater in the near future considering the gloomy prospects for the 2003 maize crop for this country, which may well be less than last year's crop. The European Commission is conscious of the worsening impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Southern Africa which increases vulnerability and hinders economic and social recovery.

The Commission attaches great importance to the close monitoring of the delivery of humanitarian assistance, the potential threats to the neutrality of humanitarian assistance and possible politicisation of this assistance.

The Commission is following closely the development of this crisis and is already preparing additional commitments for 2003. It will continue to target its responses to the poorest and most vulnerable groups including HIV/AIDS victims, displaced persons and refugees. The Commission will continue to collaborate with the Member States, other donors, UN Agencies, the Red Cross and Non-Governmental Organisations in addressing the crisis. Close collaboration will continue in particular with the WFP, the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).


1Based on information provided by EU Member States and the European Commission. The six most affected countries are Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland, Mozambique and Lesotho. These figures do not include Angola which is receiving substantial assistance.

2 Covers food aid (€117.6 million), humanitarian aid (€34.8 million) and money from the European Development Fund (€34.2 million).