Lesotho + 5 more

Millions of children's future blighted by funding crisis in Southern Africa

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GENEVA (February 26, 2004) -- The future of millions of children in six southern African countries is being put in jeopardy by a massive lack of funds and international support for crucial aid projects, according to a warning issued today by eight United Nations agencies at the launch of the Mid Term Review of the Consolidated Appeal for southern Africa.

The UN has so far received US$324 million, of which only US$24 million is for non-food activities. This represents just 14 percent of the estimated US$164 million requirements to cover the urgent needs in these sectors during the period July 2003 to June 2004.

"After millions of children have been saved from starvation, it is tragic that their lives now remain at risk from a lack of clean water, adequate sanitation and proper health care," said James T. Morris, UN Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa. "Unfortunately, without additional funds, crucial projects in these fields will have to be scaled back, while others may never be implemented at all."

Immediate and substantial donations are needed to assist 6.5 million vulnerable people, many of them children, in the six countries covered by the UN appeal -- Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In particular, funds are required to support projects targeting orphans and vulnerable children. Many are now being cared for by overstretched relatives or, increasingly, are themselves heading households.

Orphaned children face enormous hardships: many lack access to food and health care and are often forced to drop out of school, which threatens their most fundamental rights and prospects for the future.

"Three million children in the region have already lost one or both their parents. We cannot stand idly by and see them lose their futures too," said Morris. "The world must provide more money. We cannot afford to let these children down, because if we do, we will have failed an entire generation and an entire region."rgior

Due to the massive lack of funds some key projects are threatened. Some of UNICEF's projects targeting vulnerable children and orphans are yet to be funded, while UNFPA's programme to keep orphaned youths in school in Lesotho has received no support.

The picture is not entirely bleak. Donors have provided over 70 percent of the food aid needs under the appeal, benefiting millions of people, including very vulnerable children. For example, in the six countries concerned, WFP/UNICEF are providing a nutritious meal at school to more than 400,000 children -- improving enrolment, attendance and performance.

"With these generous donations of food aid, we're ensuring that people stay alive. But that's simply not good enough," said James Morris. "We have to empower them to take charge of their own futures and not create dependency."

The triple threat from severe drought, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and weakened government capacity has created a fragile situation in the southern African region.

The humanitarian crisis led to the July 2003 launch of the Consolidated Appeal by the United Nations Agencies, in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and key NGOs for US$642 million to address critical needs in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

At the time of the launch, hopes were high that the growing humanitarian threats in the region could be checked by the concerted efforts of the international community supporting national Governments. But the momentum of international support for humanitarian efforts in 2002/2003 has not carried through into 2003/2004.

Issued by the following United Nations agencies at the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination and Support Office:

The Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, OCHA
Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO
United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA
United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF
United Nations Development Programme, UNDP
Joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS
World Health Organization, WHO
World Food Programme, WFP

For further information, please contact:

Elizabeth Byrs, OCHA Geneva, Tel: + 41 22 917 2653, mobile + 41(0) 79 472 4570
Stephanie Bunker, OCHA NY, Tel: + 917 367 5126, mobile + 917 892 1679

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.