The December VAC emergency food security and vulnerability assessments confirm that food aid needs are increasing much as expected, with the most severe months from January through March. Efforts to alleviate this year's food shortages by national governments, the international community and civil society have thus far averted a major crisis. However, large volumes of outstanding planned imports will be a challenge to realize in the coming months. Early indications from the current production season are that there will be equal or even greater food shortages throughout the region in the year ahead. The current crisis is a manifestation of chronic poverty and vulnerability, exacerbated by escalating HIV/AIDS prevalence. This demands integration of short-term relief efforts with a longer-term development response within a framework of essential policy reforms.
The overall assessment process and methodology was coordinated and backstopped by the SADC Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Regional Vulnerability Assessment Committee.
National Vulnerability Assessment Committees led assessments in the six countries with broad participation from key stakeholders.
The objective of the assessments was to generate timely and necessary information and analysis to guide critical decision-making.
This is part of a series of rolling emergency food security assessments.
Another assessment will be complete by the end of May. This will include preliminary forecasts for levels of food aid requirements for the 2003/04 consumption year.
Six SADC countries conducted emergency food security assessments (Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia conducted household surveys.
Zimbabwe conducted community focus group interviews only.
Swaziland utilized a household economy approach.
All countries made use extensive use of secondary data
Key Regional Trends...
The July 2002 estimated cereal gap for all six countries of 3.3 million MT has been reduced by more than 50% through formal commercial and food aid imports as of December. If all import plans are achieved, the gap would be 85% filled by March 31, 2003. However, combined remaining imports exceed 1 million MT, which may be difficult to achieve.
Informal trade, particularly from Mozambique and Tanzania to Malawi and Zambia has helped reduce the cereal gap. Although difficult to monitor, informal cross-border trade could be as high as 300,000MT.
Acute malnutrition due to food shortages appears to have been kept in check throughout the region, but requires close monitoring.
Early indications are that next year's cereal harvest will be well below normal in areas already affected by food shortages due to unfavourable rains, limited availability/accessibility of agricultural inputs, and certain government policies that inhibit agricultural production.
Vulnerable people's resilience to another poor season next year has decreased. Successive years of stress on households mean that many coping strategies employed during this past year will become less available and/or less effective in the coming year.
The highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world are in the Southern Africa region, with adult prevalence rates in most countries in excess of 25%. HIV/AIDS directly contributes to, and is compounded by, food insecurity. The linkages are many, strong, and long lasting.
Country Overviews ...
Zimbabwe's food crisis is exacerbated by a severe economic downturn and government policies that inhibit production, importation and distribution of basic commodities. Curiously, reported national cereal availability (production + imports) from April through November indicates a surplus, which directly conflicts with VAC community analysis indicating severe food shortages. This discrepancy warrants further investigation.
In Malawi, current indications are that the potential food gap has been reduced considerably through informal cross-border cereal flows. Maize prices the same or lower than at the same time last year in most markets and availability has improved as compared to the same time last year.
In Mozambique, whilst cereal availability at the national level is considered to be normal for the time of year, household food insecurity varies widely across the country, being highest in the southern and some central districts. The estimated number of persons in need of food assistance between December and March has risen by 10% in comparison to the August VAC assessment estimates to some 660,000 people.
In Zambia, the national cereal gap was reduced by nearly 60% by including cassava in the food balance analysis using the maize equivalency. The current outstanding cereal gap (70,000 MT) will be partially covered through continued informal cross-border trade, a considerable source of cereals lacking rigorous monitoring and requiring more attention in the future.
In Lesotho, the estimated number of people in need of food assistance has increased by nearly 14% since August. This is mainly due to higher than anticipated reductions in purchasing power owing to lower than anticipated incomes and high cereal prices. The winter cereal crop was poor. Maize prices are the highest in the region.
In Swaziland, maize price increases have been one of the principal shocks to livelihoods across the country. December prices were 70 - 80% higher than at the same time last year. Commercial import deliveries have been below expectations, raising concerns of further maize price increases from January-March.
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