Lesotho + 5 more

Southern Africa - Complex Drought Fact Sheet #2, Fiscal Year (FY) 2002

Situation Report
Originally published



Southern Africa is currently facing a regional food security crisis, due in part from adverse climate conditions for two consecutive growing seasons. While a drought extends across much of the region, the worst affected countries include Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Lesotho, Mozambique, and Swaziland are also affected. To date, the U.S. Government (USG) has provided more than $49.6 million in emergency humanitarian assistance in response to the food security crisis through the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP), the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The majority of the humanitarian assistance has been emergency food relief provided by USAID/FFP. In addition to these contributions, USAID/FFP, USAID/OFDA, and USAID's Famine Early Warning System (FEWS NET) are actively monitoring the development of the food security crisis through regular USAID field assessments and participation in wider assessments conducted by the international humanitarian community. The World Food Program (WFP) is currently providing emergency food assistance to more than 2.6 million people in the region. Early reports indicate that the crisis may be similar in magnitude to the 1995-1996 drought, which affected approximately six million people.


According to the regional Drought Monitoring Center in Harare, Zimbabwe, rainfall during the first three months of the rainy season, which extents from October to April in Southern Africa, was within normal ranges throughout much of the region. However, between January and March, dry periods extended across large sections of the region, particularly from southern Zimbabwe eastwards into southern Mozambique, and resulted in crop failures and limited production.

The regional drought, combined with political, economic, and social conditions specific to each country, has resulted in household food shortages. The potential large-scale humanitarian crises in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Zambia, and, to a lesser extent in Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho also exists. While agricultural production estimates are still being finalized, the region is expected to face a deficit of more than three million metric tons (MT) of maize for the April 2002 to March 2003 consumption year. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) estimates that there is an overall maize deficit of 3.22 million MT for the drought affected SADC countries.

Zimbabwe has traditionally been a food exporter, supplying much of the food imported by food deficit countries in the region. However, significant shortfalls in 2002 agricultural production in Zimbabwe are having a direct impact on the price, availability, and accessibility of food stocks throughout Southern Africa.

Traditional rural coping mechanisms throughout the region have already been strained--making it even more difficult for family households to deal with the current food crisis. For example, many rural populations, especially in southern Zimbabwe and southern Zambia, rely on livestock as a source of funds to purchase food during poor yield years. In the past several years, livestock diseases have taken a heavy toll on herds and limited rural households' ability to buy food. Therefore, the health of livestock and the ability to trade animals for cereals are key determinants for maintaining food security for these populations. USAID/FFP, USAID/OFDA, and FEWS NET continue to monitor the livestock situation throughout the region.

Joint WFP and U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions-, working with Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Office and FEWS NET, are underway throughout the region. The purpose of these assessments is to develop detailed analyses of the food and non-food humanitarian assistance requirements during the April 2002 to March 2003 consumption year. The assessments will be completed in May and the results are expected in early June.

High prevalence rates of HIV/AIDS in much of the region leave large potions of the population increasingly susceptible to health problems associated with food shortages, including malnutrition. In addition, those suffering from both malnutrition and HIV/AIDS are increasingly susceptible to endemic diseases, such as cholera and malaria.

The limited capacity of the regional logistics infrastructures will be a impediment inhibiting the ability of SADC countries and the international relief community to implement a large-scale response to the drought situation.


The Prime Minister of Lesotho declared a national disaster on April 22. This is the second consecutive year of poor maize and sorghum production due to heavy rains and frost.

According to an early May food security assessment by WFP and FAO, long-term food security was aggravated by a 50 % decrease in the crop harvest during the 2001-2002 season. Factors contributing to the drop in agricultural production included: 1) significant early rains that delayed the planting season and resulted in a 30-40% decrease in the total land area planted; 2) late rains during the planting season; 3) periods of frost during the growing season that affected crop development; and 4) poor farming practices that reduced the availability of top soil and depleted nutrients from the soil.Southern Africa Complex Drought - May 17, 2002


The President of Malawi declared a national disaster on February 27, because of drought-related food shortages. The most severely affected regions of Malawi include parts of the Central, Southern, and Lakeshore regions.

According to the Government of Malawi (GOM), the total maize shortfall for the 2002-2003 consumption year will reach 600,000 MT.

According to WFP/FAO's initial food security assessment, the number of Malawians at risk and in need of emergency food assistance will rise incrementally between now and March 2003. Preliminary estimates indicate that between June and August, approximately 545,000 people will be at risk and in need of emergency food assistance. From September to December, the number will rise to as many as 2.14 million people who will require more than 150,000 MT of emergency food assistance. At risk populations are expected to peak between December 2002 and March 2003, reaching an estimated 3.2 million people who will require more than 42,000 MT of emergency food assistance during the period. In total, WFP/FAO estimate that more than 208,000 MT of emergency food assistance will be required in Malawi between May 2002 and March 2003.

A joint USAID/FFP and USAID/OFDA assessment between March 12 and 18 concluded that the deterioration in the overall humanitarian situation might result in a large-scale food crisis as early as September or October 2002.

In response to the food security crisis that has resulted from the drought, U.S. Ambassador Roger A. Meece declared a disaster for Malawi on March 8. USAID/OFDA provided $25,000 through USAID/Lilongwe, which was combined with $37,000 in development funds, to enable Catholic Relief Services (CRS) to divert 630 MT of Title II development food stocks to support new supplemental feeding activities. Medicines Sans Frontieres/Luxembourg (MSF/L), Save the Children/United States (SCF/US), and CADECOM (local CARITAS) are implementing the supplemental feeding activities.

According to UN OCHA, the cholera crisis that continues to affect Malawi has been aggravated by malnutrition, resulting from the current food shortage. The current crisis has claimed 1,000 lives and peaked in February and March 2002 with 40,000 reported cases. In response to the cholera outbreak, USAID/OFDA provided $100,000 through USAID/Lilongwe to the Malawian Red Cross to address the medical needs of those affected by the outbreak.


The Government of the Republic of Mozambique (GRM) reported that 50,000 to 60,000 families, or 250,000 to 300,000 people, are adversely affected by the drought and will require emergency food assistance and crop seeds the next six to seven months. An additional 70,000 families, or 350,000 people, have been identified as moderately affected and will need two to four months of food assistance beginning in late 2002.

USAID/Maputo reports that the areas most affected by the drought include Inhambane, Gaza, Sofala, and Tete provinces. Even in years with significant rainfall, these areas are traditionally prone to drought. However, pockets of food insecurity are developing in normally food secure areas, such as coastal Nampula, where cassava disease is causing major losses, and in the Zambezi River basin, where families displaced by last year's floods remain vulnerable.

According to FEWS NET, Mozambique's national production of cereals will be 11% higher than last year. GRM estimates also indicate that the northern part of the country will have an above average harvest, and surpluses are expected to be exported to Malawi and Zimbabwe. These exports have increased substantially in recent years and Mozambican farmers are concerned about the impact of large, regional food aid interventions on future markets.

FEWS NET also reports that people in the densely populated coastal zones of southern Mozambique and Maputo Province, have diversified their income sources and are prepared to cope the limited production maize. FEWS NET indicates that the food security situation is likely to become more serious in the less populated interior regions, as households exhaust their coping mechanisms. The food security situation is expected to peak between September and December, just before the primary season crop is harvested.


According to the Government of Swaziland (GOS), the dry spell between December 2001 and January 2002 caused crop failures in much of the country. Crop yields are projected to be even lower than last year's reduced harvest. The GOS estimates that up to 126,000 people are in need of immediate food assistance.

USAID/FFP reports that the expected maize deficit for coming year is 134,000 MT, of which SADC estimates that 40,000 MT will need to be met by emergency food assistance. In early 2002, the GOS purchased 50,000 MT of maize from South Africa for distribution to the affected populations. This imported maize is expected to be distributed and consumed by the end of May 2002.

USAID/FFP and USAID/OFDA conducted an assessment of the drought and food shortage situation in Swaziland from April 22-25. The assessment indicated that the Lowveld area is the most severely impacted, with portions of the Middleveld and Highveld areas, as well as the Lubombo Plateau, also experiencing crop failures and food shortages. The food security situation in rural areas has been further exacerbated by steadily deteriorating socio-economic conditions.

In late 2001, the overall livestock population in Swaziland was decimated by an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, which resulted in the loss of approximately 168,000 cattle and greatly reduced the availability of livestock resources as a household-level coping mechanism. According to the recent USAID assessment, severely affected households are coping by reducing the number of meals consumed.

The USAID assessment team also reported that low ground water tables are limiting the availability of potable water for both residents and livestock.


WFP reported that nearly 400,000 people in 19 districts located in the Southern, Eastern, and Western provinces have been affected by drought-related food insecurity. This total represents 20% of Zambia's population of two million.

USAID/FFP and USAID/OFDA conducted an initial assessment of the food security crisis in Zambia from April 7-13. The team reported that the number of residents in need is expected to dramatically increase by September or October.

The Government of Zambia has reported that the crop forecast for the 2001/2002 agricultural season is on-going, but initial reports are that agricultural production will provide for slightly less than half of the domestic maize requirements.

In response to the food security situation, USDA contributed 15,000 MT of Section 416 (b) food commodities valued at approximately $7,900,000.


President Mugabe declared a disaster in Zimbabwe effective April 30 and appealed for international assistance as a result of food insecurity affecting communal lands, resettlement areas, and urban centers. The Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) reports that 7.8 million people, 5 million of whom are children, will require humanitarian assistance for the next 18 months. According to FEWS NET, the vulnerable population requiring food assistance in Zimbabwe will reach three million by June 2002, with as many as five million people becoming food insecure before the next agricultural harvest in March 2003.

FEWS NET reported that this year's agricultural maize production, estimated at less than 600,000 MT, is less than half of last year's output of 1,476,230 MT, which was below the five year average. Domestic maize production in 2002 will only one-quarter of Zimbabwe's national maize consumption requirements.

According to WFP and FAO, the current food security crisis in Zimbabwe is aggravated by foreign exchange shortages that limit the GOZ's ability to procure and import food commodities.

Only a fraction of the total imported food requirements for Zimbabwe is likely to be covered by emergency food assistance. A large portion of the food deficit could be covered through commercial imports for local sale. However, the combination of GOZ restrictions on private sector imports of maize, price controls, and the lack of access to foreign exchange is severely constraining the capacity of the country to respond to the crisis.

The WFP/FAO assessment also indicated that several successive poor harvests have exhausted traditional coping mechanisms such as selling livestock, informal cross-border imports, and foraging of mopane worms. The livestock situation is compounded by the reduction of livestock prices and declining demand, which resulted from a 25% reduction in the size of the national herd.

According to the WFP/FAO assessment, the secondary impacts of the food security crisis include: 1) the consumption of immature crops and next year's seed stock; 2) increased school dropout rates due to hunger and lack of resources to pay school fees; 3) reduced household consumption with many families consuming only 1.5 meals per day; 4) reduced family care as mothers spend increasing amounts of time searching for food; and, 5) environmental degradation due to deforestation and animal poaching.

In response to the food security situation, USAID/FFP provided 34,430 MT of P.L. 480 Title II emergency food commodities, valued at $19,912,528, through WFP and World Vision International (WVI) to support 633,000 beneficiaries. In addition, USDA contributed 10,000 MT of Section 416 (b) commodities valued at approximately $5,300,000.

U.S. Government Response

USAID/FFP and USDA have provided 102,780 MT of P.L 480 Title II and Section 416 (b) emergency food commodities to the region, including 60,000 MT for Zambia and Zimbabwe. The remaining 35,330, valued at $16,373,000, is being pre-positioned with WFP in the region for distribution in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, as needed.

USAID/FFP also plans to procure an additional 37,500 MT of emergency food commodities, valued at approximately $15,000,000, for future use in the region.

Public Donation Information

In the interest of effective coordination of public response, USAID encourages the public to contact directly those non-governmental organizations (NGOs) currently working in the region in order to provide monetary donations. Cash donations are the preferred response to the emergency.

For a list of NGOs providing disaster assistance in the region, please visit USAID's website at http://www.usaid.gov. Those interested in providing specific technical relief services or commodities can obtain guidelines for private voluntary organizations through Volunteers in Technical Assistance's (VITA's) Disaster Information Center at http://www.vita.org.

USAID will not deviate from standard Denton Program procedures for transporting privately donated relief supplies. USAID will prioritize delivery of essential relief commodities. For more information on the Denton Program, please refer to the USAID website at http://www.usaid.gov/hum_response/pvc/denton.html.

For additional information about the relief effort in Southern Africa, please refer to the Natural Disasters section of ReliefWeb at http://www.reliefweb.int/

For information about the changing food security situation in Southern Africa, please refer to http://www.sadc-fanr.org.zw/ and http://www.fews.net.

U.S. Government Humanitarian Assistance to Southern Africa

Implementing Partner
USAID/Lilongwe Supplementary Feeding
Malawian Red Cross Health
WFP Section 416(b) Food Assistance - 15,000 MT
WFP P.L. 480 Title II Food Assistance - 20,120 MT
WVI P.L. 480 Title II Food Assistance - 14,310 MT
WFP Section 416(b) Food Assistance - 10,000 MT
Regional Assistance Summary
P.L. 480 Title II Food Assistance - 35,330 (33,230?) MT prepositioned food commodities

Click here for the Southern Africa Complex Drought map.

*USAID/OFDA fact sheets can be obtained from the USAID web site at http://www.usaid.gov/hum_response/ofda/situation.html