Lesotho + 5 more

Refugees International launches mission to assess impact of Southern Africa Food Crisis

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Thirteen million people in six countries -- Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe -- are facing the most severe crisis since drought-induced hunger struck the region in 1992. Food insecurity in southern Africa is a result of policy and governance failures, compounded by drought, flooding, livestock diseases, civil disorder, poor farming methods, and the increasing rate of HIV/AIDS. As a result of these and other factors, farmers have not been able to produce enough maize, their staple food.
The affected countries are some of the world's poorest and have fewer resources to cope with the effects of the drought then they did ten years ago. The situation varies from country to country, but two of the common elements to the crisis include the impact of high rates of HIV prevalence (rates in the six countries average around 24.9 percent) and a lack of financial resources.

A team from Refugees International will travel to Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa from August 17th to September 6th to assess the extent of the food crisis and whether it is beginning to trigger migration and displacement.

The crisis in Malawi results from a number of factors: chronic poverty, reliance on a single crop, the decision to sell off grain reserves, unfavorable weather conditions, and a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Access to food is limited due to low-income levels and higher than normal prices. These limit people's ability to buy food even when it is available. For the majority of the rural population, this crisis is as profound as any to be seen in the countries of southern Africa in recent decades.

Current levels of food insecurity in Zimbabwe are the result of a continuing and substantial deterioration in the macro-economy of the country over the 1990s, recent climatic factors, a broad disruption in the patterns of national food production due to "fast track" land reform activities, and more recent events of civil disturbance. The worst-affected by these factors have been vulnerable rural populations in chronically food-deficit areas in the south, west and extreme north of the country; the urban poor, who are entirely dependent on the market to meet their food needs; and commercial farm worker families.