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Post Season Consultative Forum on the Response to the Humanitarian Crisis in SADC: Communiqué

Originally published
14. - 15. AUGUST 2002


A special meeting of the SADC Post Season Regional Forum was held in Lusaka, Zambia from 14 -15 August, 2002 to review the regional response to the current Humanitarian Crisis and ensure that mechanisms are put in place in order to avert a major catastrophe. A crisis of this magnitude has not been seen in the region since the 1991/1992 drought.

The meeting was opened by Mr W.K. Mulubisha, Permanent Secretary of Office of the Vice President. In his opening remarks the Permanent Secretary called for Member States to take bold steps in implementing a systematic and comprehensive programme to deal with the Humanitarian Crisis. He also called on Member States to effectively utilise the existing Disaster Management Systems in containing disasters at both national and regional levels. At the opening ceremony the representative of the SADC Secretariat, Mrs Margaret Nyirenda highlighted the need for collective action to deal with the crisis and called for support from the donor community in the implementation of the short and long-term strategies. The representative from USAID, Dr William Whelan expressed his Government's commitment to support SADC in this Humanitarian Crisis.

The meeting was attended by 10 Member States from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe and the SADC Secretariat. Also in attendance were the representatives of World Food Programme (WFP), Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), United Nations International Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET).

The meeting noted with great concern that the crisis may affect up to 12.8 million people between now and March 2003 if not averted. A total of 1.2 million tonnes of cereals is required to avert the crisis. The meeting also noted that an Appeal for Humanitarian Assistance with an estimated amount of US$611 million was launched by the UN Agencies and SADC on 18th July 2002 in New York.

The meeting also reviewed the resonse to the crisis from the perspective of agro-climatic/hydrological aspects; UN regional response to-date; vulnerability assessment programme across the region, and policies affecting food security within the region.

The meeting noted presentations from Member States highlighting mechanisms and programmes that have been put in place in order to address the crisis.

The meeting made specific recommendations on the following issues:

1. Health Nutrition, Water Supply and Sanitation;

Member States should establish effective coordination mechanisms for all sectors, which should include clear roles and responsibilities tapping on best practices in the region.

Water supply and sanitation issues should become part and parcel of the on-going assessments. In addition, the meeting noted that the next assessment will be held in December 2002. Member States should also support families, which have no access to safe water and sanitation.

Water conservation measures are in place in view of the forecasted El Nino, which could result in a drought in the region.

Member States should ensure availability of relevant drugs and food and provide micro-nutrients and/or fortification of maize meal. On-going micro-nutrients supplementation and de-worming should be strengthened.

Member States should set-up sentinel monitoring systems rapid response teams in the most affected areas.

2. Coordination Issues at National and Regional

The meeting noted that the coordination mechanisms and structures are in place at both national and regional levels. It was noted that at national level, these mechanisms were operating effectively. However, at regional level, there is no capacity to for coordination. The Disaster Management Strategy, which was approved by SADC Council in August 2001, is experiencing implementation constraints.

The meeting strongly recommended that the Secretariat should as a matter of urgency mobilise financial resources to support the current activities and operationalise the Disaster Management Unit.

The meeting noted that some donors such as the UNDP have indicated their interest to support the strengthening of the Disaster Management Unit at the SADC Secretariat. However, the Secretariat is required to submit formal requests to this effect.

Regarding the information exchange on the crisis, Member States were urged to provide information to the Secretariat. The Secretariat should establish a website on the Humanitarian Crisis with direct links to National Disaster Management Units. The meeting recommended that the Logistical Advisory Centre should handle all the issues as they arise.

3. Handling of GMO maize grain

The meeting noted the concerns on GMO maize grain and their effects in particular, regarding food safety, the impact on the environment, ethical issues, trade with non- GMO partners, and intellectual property rights and access to seeds by small-scale farmers.

The meeting recommended that each Member State should take a position to accept or reject GMO grain as food aid. In the event that a Member State accepts this grain, they may consider the following:

1. Awareness campaigns should be undertaken to ensure that GMO maize is not planted;

2. Member States should ensure that all GMO maize is milled into flour before any distribution to beneficiaries. The cost of milling is currently estimated at US$25 per metric tonne and

3. As a long-term measure, Member States should develop capacity to deal with the GMO issues particularly for testing and monitoring. The SADC Advisory Committee on GMO, which is being established under FANR Directorate should take up this responsibility.

The meeting noted that WFP could be approached to provide assistance at national and regional levels to deal with the GMO issues. In the short-term, the meeting reiterated the need for bilateral consultations for transit GMO maize as approved by FANR Ministers.

4. Agricultural Recovery and Policy Issues

The meeting reviewed issues pertaining to the regions preparedness for the next growing season in particular, with regard to the availability, affordability, accessibility and distribution of farm inputs.

The meeting recommended that each Member State should provide adequate budgetary support for the procurement of farm inputs for the affected populations. The private sector and NGOs participation should be encouraged to ensure timely distribution of farming inputs. Furthermore, Governments must create an enabling environment for private sector commercial imports. Policy issues on pricing, credit, subsidies, and strategic grain reserves should be reviewed by Member States.

The meeting further recommended that all the medium to long term policy issues pertaining to farm inputs, livestock recovery, rehabilitation of infrastructure should be incorporated in the new programme being developed by the FANR Directorate.

Early Warning Systems should be strengthened in order to provide information for decision making to the farmers and other stakeholders.

The Director of Planning in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Mr. A. Banda, officially closed the meeting on behalf of the Permanent Secretary and urged Member States to rise to the challenge and ensure that as a region, they must manage this Humanitarian Crisis and take necessary medium and long-term strategies to tackle future disasters.

Done in Lusaka, Republic of Zambia
15 August, 2002