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Southern Africa Complex Food Security Crisis Situation Report #10 (FY 2002)

Situation Report
Originally published

Note: This Situation Report updates Southern Africa Complex Food Security Crisis Situation Report # 9 dated July 26, 2002.


Southern Africa is currently facing a regional food security crisis, due to a combination of adverse climate conditions for two consecutive growing seasons in a number of countries, mismanagement of grain reserves in some countries, and questionable government policies, primarily in Zimbabwe. During the past production season, unusually dry conditions extended across much of the region, from southern Zambia eastward to southern Mozambique, resulting in crop failures and limited production in many areas. Normally, food stocks carried over from the previous year and the intra-regional trade of surplus commodities help to offset production shortfalls. This year, however, regional stocks are exceptionally low, as they were drawn down to fill the previous year's food shortages, and surplus commodities within the region are limited. Zimbabwe is on the verge of a serious food crisis, with almost half the population at risk. The potential for humanitarian food crises also exists in Malawi and Zambia. Poor and vulnerable households in Mozambique, Swaziland, and Lesotho will also require humanitarian assistance. The governments of several countries in Southern Africa have declared national disasters due to actual and anticipated food shortages, including Malawi (February 27), Lesotho (April 22), Zimbabwe (April 30), and Zambia (May 28). In July, the U.N. issued its Consolidated Interagency Appeal (CAP) to meet the food and non-food emergency humanitarian needs in Southern Africa. The U.N. appealed for $611 million from donors, including $507 million for food aid through the U.N. World Food Program's (WFP) Emergency Operation (EMOP). Since the beginning of 2002, the U.S. Government (USG) has provided more than $68 million and recently announced a further $76 million in emergency humanitarian assistance in response to the food security crisis through the U.S. Agency for International Development's (USAID) Office of Food for Peace (USAID/FFP) and the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The majority of the humanitarian assistance has been emergency food relief provided by USAID/FFP.

Numbers at a glance - Populations in need

Population in Need1
Jun 02 - Aug 02
Population in Need1
Sep 02 - Nov 02
Population in Need1
Dec 02 - Mar 03
Cereal Food Aid Needs (MT) through Mar 03

1 Anticipated populations and food aid needs between June 2002 and March 2003 are based on WFP/FAO assessments during April and May 2002.

Total USG Humanitarian Assistance provided, to date: $144,617,388

Total USG Food Aid provided, to date, in Metric Tons (MT): 290,610

Current Situation

Arrival of Latest Shipment of U.S. Food Aid to the Region. The USAID-chartered ship, the Liberty Star, arrived in Durban, South Africa on July 29, carrying 36,450 MT of emergency food commodities, valued at approximately $16 million, for Southern Africa. This contribution brings the total U.S. food aid now in the region to more than 130,000 MT worth approximately $68 million. The shipment was consigned to WFP and is allocated to Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. This food will feed approximately 2.4 million people for one month.

More U.S. food aid is on the way to Southern Africa. Another USAID-chartered ship, the Marie Flood, sailed for Southern Africa on August 3 with 33,500 MT of whole grain corn. It is expected to arrive in Durban, South Africa, on September 3. In addition, the M/V Liberty Sea, with a further 41,500 MT of corn, is expected to sail shortly for the region. These are the first two shipment of commodities purchased with funds from the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust.

Controversy Over Biotech-Derived Food Aid. Some governments in Southern Africa, namely Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique, have expressed concerns about accepting food aid donated by the USG that contains biotech-derived products, such as genetically-modified whole corn. Some aid recipients are taking the position that U.S. whole corn should be milled before distribution to beneficiaries. The governments of Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland, however, are all accepting relief food aid of biotech origin, including whole corn.

The USG gives biotech-derived food because that is what is available in the U.S. food supply. Currently, approximately 40 percent of corn acreage and 60 percent of soybean acreage in the United Sates are planted with biotech varieties. The USG cannot certify biotech-free food aid because it does not require segregation of biotech from non-biotech food for its domestic food supply, and the USG has judged biotech-derived foods to be as safe as ones from traditional crops. The whole kernel corn being provided by the USG as part of relief assistance is the same as that eaten by Americans. Milling the emergency food aid would entail lengthy delays, logistical challenges, and higher costs at a time when additional resources are limited.

Update on the WFP Emergency Operation (EMOP). WFP reported that, as of August 9, only 22 percent of the commodities required for its EMOP, issued on July 1, have been pledged. More than 70 percent of contributions so far are from the USG. WFP is facing a shortfall in pledges of nearly $393 million and a shortfall of 70,213 MT of food required for the months of August, September, and October. Due to the low levels of funding, WFP reported that it is not able to achieve its goal of pre-positioning 340,000 MT in the region prior to the rainy season in October to avoid logistical congestion during the peak period of need. WFP is currently feeding 4.6 million people in the region and hopes to have food for nearly 13 million people by the end of the year. Additional contributions are urgently required to make this possible.

Based on Crop and Food Supply assessments conducted in April and May, WFP and the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimate that of the total regional food deficit of approximately 4.1 million MT, emergency food assistance needs to be at least 1.5 million MT. WFP has requested nearly one million MT of food commodities for its nine-month EMOP (July 2002-March 2003), with a total program value of $507 million. This is only 67 percent of the overall cereal requirement for the affected countries, with government programs, NGOs, and the private sector expected to cover the remaining deficit. It is clear that the ability of the region's commercial sector to import large quantities of additional food remains of paramount importance in order to fill the cereal gap and stave off famine.

New Joint Food Security Assessments Underway. The results of the joint WFP/FAO Crop and Food Supply Assessment conducted in April and May provided estimates of the magnitude of the food required and the numbers of people in need. The nature of the problem is changing due to a number of factors, particularly the level of food received, both food aid and commercial, and changes to livelihoods, income sources, and prices. In order to update figures of those in need and to improve targeting of food aid, a series of emergency assessments conducted by National Vulnerability Assessment Committees (VACs) have begun in the six most affected countries. The VACs are comprised of participants from WFP, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the USAID-supported Famine Early Warning System (FEWS NET), FAO, governments, and NGOs. Results are expected by the end of August; the estimated number of people in need of food aid is likely to rise.

International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Launches Appeal. IFRC has launched its largest appeal since its Balkans operations three years ago, asking donors for $61.9 million to bring assistance to 1.3 million people throughout Southern Africa. During the launch of the IFRC appeal, the IFRC announced the provision of 200 short-haul trucks, donated by the Norwegian Red Cross, to be integrated into the WFP logistics operation. The IFRC valued this truck contribution at $7.2 million. The Federation also appealed for buffer stocks of 76,000 MT of food aid as a contingency, in the event that other agency pipelines break.

WHO Warns of Increased Mortality. The U.N. World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning on August 4 that at least 300,000 people in Southern Africa could die as a result of the food security crisis in the next six months unless effective action is taken to enable the most vulnerable to survive. WHO has found increased malnutrition levels, particularly among children, that are already resulting in higher mortality rates among all groups; crude mortality rates are reaching two per 10,000 people per day in some areas. WHO reported that the incidence of disease, including tuberculosis and acute respiratory infection, is on the rise, and the risk of severe measles has increased. The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, poor health infrastructure, and lack of essential medicines are also contributing to the malnutrition-related deaths.

Likelihood of El Niño Increases. According to a recent report by the Flood and Drought Network of SADC, the chance of an El Niño event affecting the Southern Africa region during the remainder of 2002 and into early 2003 has risen to 90 percent. This could lead to a further deterioration in food security. El Niño global climactic anomalies have been linked to drought, floods, and hurricanes in Southern Africa. A July assessment by SADC indicated that the most likely strength of the El Niño would be about one-third to half of the strength of the 1997-1998 El Niño, which caused severe drought in Southern Africa.

Country Updates

Zimbabwe. The U.N. has appealed for nearly $285 million or nearly 453,000 MT of food commodities to help Zimbabweans survive the worst food shortage in Zimbabwe in 50 years. The U.N.'s priorities are emergency food relief, agricultural recovery, education and child protection, health services, including tackling HIV/AIDS, and economic recovery and infrastructure.

According to WFP, the cereal pipeline for Zimbabwe is sufficient through November. However, despite WFP's purchases of corn-soya blend (CSB), oil and pulses, non-cereals are still needed. In addition, there has been little response to the non-food sections of the U.N. appeal for Zimbabwe, despite a critical lack of access to corn seed for most farmers and major shortages of fertilizer as the country heads into the spring planting season.

Although the WFP cereal pipeline is currently full, Zimbabwe still faces a serious cereal gap. With national cereal production down an estimated 67 percent from the previous 1999-2000 season, the overall cereal deficit for the April 2002-March 2003 consumption year started at approximately 1.8 million MT. According to an August 6 report by the U.N. Relief and Recovery Unit (UNRRU), from April 1 to July 31, 2002, a total of 336,843 MT of food had been imported through both government and donor humanitarian assistance, only reducing the cereal gap to just under 1.5 million MT. The U.N. report cited local press reports that indicate that the parastatal Grain Marketing Board (GMB) has contracted for the purchase of 500,000 MT of white corn from South America, and WFP is still to bring into the country a total of 137,094 MT of food pledged by donors. According to the UNRRU report, this would cover the nation's food needs for about seven months.

WFP field staff in Zimbabwe report that the food security situation is rapidly deteriorating in the southern parts of the country, with some beneficiaries showing visible early signs of malnutrition. Local food supplies are diminishing, and wild fruits are becoming less available as the dry, winter season progresses. WFP is fielding a rapid assessment team to Bulilmamangwe and Tsholotsho districts and other parts of Matabeleland, following WFP monitoring reports that the nutritional status of populations may be deteriorating faster than anticipated. Monitors have observed that complications from HIV/AIDS are seriously undermining the health of a large number of people.

The Liberty Star cargo contained 20,000 MT of food commodities, including 17,500 MT of whole corn, destined for Zimbabwe. Despite initial concerns over the biotech food content of the shipment, the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) has agreed to accept the contribution from the USG. USAID, WFP, and the GOZ are working out the specific modalities of the importation and distribution of this food. In May, the GOZ had turned down a shipment of 10,000 MT of food aid from the USG due to concern about the environmental and health effects of biotech-derived food aid. The food was diverted to other countries in the region.

Given continuing disruptions to the commercial farming sector, the prospects for agricultural production this coming year in Zimbabwe appear dim. Under Section 8 of the controversial Land Acquisition Act, close to 3,000 white farmers had until August 10 to leave their property or face fines and jail terms. According to the group Justice for Agriculture, approximately 60 percent of commercial farmers and their black employees have decided to defy the order and stay on their land and continue to work as normal; this is equivalent to approximately 1.5 million people. Two years of "fast track" land reform have led to violent clashes, displaced more than 100,000 black farm workers, and reduced the total amount of tilled land by 60 percent. The situation is compounded by the fact that only a small proportion of the winter wheat crop has been planted because of threats directed against wheat farmers. In addition, the plan to continue evicting farmers and farm workers means that many of these crops will not be harvested. And, only if a massive irrigated corn crop is planted this November will continuing food shortages be averted.

Malawi. The U.N. has requested more than $144 million from donors to meet food and non-food humanitarian needs in Malawi, including emergency nutrition, water and sanitation, disease surveillance and other health activities, agricultural inputs, and coordination. As part of this appeal, WFP has asked donors for 264,501 MT of emergency food aid for Malawi.

In July, WFP's 11 NGO implementing partners distributed 7,150 MT of food, including 2,000 MT for specialized feeding programs. WFP and the NGO Consortium in Malawi, in coordination with the Government of Malawi (GOM), have developed and are implementing protocols for targeting and surveillance that assure the emergency food relief is distributed to the most needy people in Malawi.

WFP currently anticipates an adequate pipeline for corn and vegetable oil through the end of September but additional contributions are urgently needed. In addition, WFP, USAID, the GOM, and NGOs are concerned about breaks in the pipeline for CSB, beans, dry milk, and sugar. Shortages of these commodities could seriously hamper the operations of therapeutic and supplementary feeding centers. USAID/FFP is taking steps to provide CSB and dry milk to Malawi in order to help meet those specialized needs.

WFP reported on August 9, that the GOM had signed contracts for the importation of up to 211,000 MT of corn, of which reportedly 51,000 MT have arrived at regional ports and 8,000 MT are already in country.

The GOM plans to import additional cereals with its own resources, the reprogramming of $10 million of USAID balance of payments support, and an IMF-World Bank emergency program of an estimated $50 million. Despite this, there is growing concern among donors that unless additional corn is received during the September-November period, either commercially sold corn or emergency food aid, prices will rise beyond affordable levels, vulnerability will increase, and requirements for supplemental and therapeutic feeding will increase. A recent WHO nutrition survey showed that child malnutrition levels have already increased from 6 percent to 19 percent in the last three months.

WFP is also hoping to obtain donor support to repair a 77 kilometer long stretch of Mozambique and Malawi's Nacala rail line and lease eight locomotives in order to expedite the transportation of urgently needed relief food and expand capacity by 10,000 MT (from 5,000 to 15,000 MT) per month on the Nacala corridor.

The GOM announced re-introduction of the "starter-pack" agricultural inputs program, funded and managed by U.K. Department for International Development (DfID), that targets three million households, each of which will be provided with two kilograms of corn seed, one kilogram of bean seeds, and ten kilograms of fertilizer. The GOM also announced introduction of a fertilizer and corn loan scheme to boost the country's corn production. USAID is coordinating closely with DfID and is working to support agriculture recovery programs that will complement and expand upon the "starter pack" program by providing additional seeds and promoting greater crop diversification.

Zambia. The U.N. has requested more than $71 million from donors to meet food and non-food humanitarian needs in Zambia, including emergency nutrition, water and sanitation, disease surveillance and other health activities, and agricultural rehabilitation. Of this total, WFP has appealed to donors to provide 130,603 MT of emergency food aid. Currently, WFP is feeding approximately one million Zambians and 130,000 refugees from Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. By January 2003, WFP plans to feed more than 2.5 million Zambians.

The Government of Zambia (GRZ) convened a national town meeting, an indaba, on August 12 in order to discuss whether Zambia should accept food aid containing biotech food. Participants included civic groups, concerned citizens, scientists, and environmentalists. Following the indaba, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa announced that Zambia would not accept biotech food aid. As a result, U.S.-donated food aid in country and in route to Zambia may have to be reallocated to other countries.

The United States has already provided 23,500 MT of food to Zambia and an additional 42,000 MT of U.S.-donated food aid are heading to Zambia by boat, rail, and truck. This U.S.-donated food aid may contain biotech-derived food. To date, there has reportedly been little effect on the distribution of 8,500 MT of U.S. food that was already underway in Zambia; in only three sites have local authorities suspended distribution. However, the fate of U.S.-donated food aid, in country and in route to Zambia, awaits the decision of the GRZ. WFP has expressed concern about the GRZ's stance on biotech-derived food aid because WFP presently has no other resources to feed Zambians or refugees. A WFP representative said that if the GRZ does not accept the U.S.-donated food aid, it would be diverted to other countries in the region.

Mozambique. WFP reported on August 2 that, with its implementing partners, it is providing food in Mozambique through Food-For-Work (FFW) activities in 36 districts, and through general distributions in two districts where capacity for FFW does not exist. WFP expects to meet its distribution target of 6,000 MT in August. However, WFP expects a break in the cereal pipeline for Mozambique in September and contributions are urgently needed.

The Government of Mozambique (GRM) recently decided that biotech-derived corn in food aid destined for human consumption in Mozambique must be milled before it is distributed to beneficiaries. After extended negotiations over the modalities of milling, on August 14, the GRM agreed to accept biotech food aid, and 4,500 MT of whole corn that had been sitting for weeks in the port of Maputo were unloaded and transferred to a nearby factory for processing. The GRM has agreed to permit the transshipment of food aid containing biotech corn through Mozambique to interior countries as long as long as such shipments are securely sealed and GRM inspectors oversee the loading. Nearly 4,000 MT of food aid are already being transported in this way through Mozambique to Swaziland. The GRM has agreed that the same procedures can be used for additional planned shipments from Mozambican ports of entry across its territory to interior countries. Utilizing the Mozambican ports of Maputo, Beira, and Nacala is critical to WFP's logistical plan to bring food aid to people in need in the six most affected countries of Southern Africa.

Lesotho. For Lesotho, the U.N. has appealed to donors to provide approximately $41 million to meet emergency needs, including 64,089 MT of emergency food aid. In addition to food relief, the U.N. seeks to address critical humanitarian problems in health, nutrition, agriculture, and water and sanitation.

WFP has begun distributing nearly 5,000 MT of corn meal and 2,500 MT of corn, and 134 MT of vegetable oil has started arriving in the country from the port of Durban, South Africa. This will bring some relief to the northeastern district of Qacha's Nek. The worst-affected regions in Lesotho are Qacha's Nek and southern districts of Thaba-Tseka, Mohale's Hoek, and Quthing, where recent harvests have been the lowest in more than 30 years, according to a WFP assessment. However, WFP reported that food distribution has been bogged down due to logistical problems, including snowstorms and poor road infrastructure in remote areas.

Among the food WFP is distributing is 2,500 MT of corn meal from the Liberty Star shipment, which is being distributed in the south. An additional 2,500 MT of whole corn from the shipment is in the process of being delivered to WFP in Maseru. This contribution may contain biotech-derived corn. The Government of Lesotho has no problem accepting shipments of biotech corn, but would like it to be milled for a number of humanitarian reasons: many people are too weak to mill the corn themselves, they are confined to their homes, and the logistics of getting to milling facilities in a mountainous, snowbound country are daunting. WFP has agreed to this approach, and the NGO Irish Aid has offered to bear the costs of the milling. At approximately $25 per metric ton, the total cost of approximately $62,000 is high for a poor country such as Lesotho.

Despite the recent influx of food aid into Lesotho, a WFP official has expressed concerns that there is not enough food for the estimated 444,000 people in Lesotho who will be at risk of starvation by December 2002. WFP has only managed to secure 28 percent of its food aid requirements. This will only feed 97,000 people for the next three months. Additional contributions are urgently needed.

Swaziland. The U.N. has appealed to donors for $19 million to meet relief needs in Swaziland through programs in food aid, nutrition, water and sanitation, shelter for child-headed households, agricultural inputs, cholera prevention, and coordination. WFP has requested 26,166 MT of food commodities to meet emergency needs. WFP slated 3,933 MT of food aid from Mozambique, including U.S.-donated food, for operations in Swaziland; to date, at least 1,796 MT have arrived in country. With this food, WFP has delivered a full food basket, comprised of corns, beans, and vegetable oil, for its eight implementing NGOs. Distribution to beneficiaries is ongoing.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UN OCHA) reported on August 5 that many families in eastern Swaziland have exhausted their traditional coping mechanisms. According to UN OCHA, 112,000 people in eastern Swaziland, more than a tenth of the country's population, are already starving. Another 80,000 Swazis will be reduced to one meal per day by the end of this month, and by year's end, a quarter of the nation will be starving if emergency relief food does not arrive in time. The traditional self-sustaining multi-generational family homestead has eroded as young people have left for jobs and education. Agricultural production has declined for a variety of reasons, including the fact that a third of adult Swazis are HIV positive, primarily the most productive workers, so there are fewer hands to tend the fields.

USG Humanitarian Assistance

Since the beginning of 2002, the USG has provided more than $68 million and has pledged a further $76 million in emergency humanitarian assistance in response to the food security crisis.

USAID/OFDA will respond with non-food assistance to complement the USG food aid response for Southern Africa. USAID/OFDA will address immediate emergency needs in agricultural rehabilitation, including seeds, education, training, and irrigation; and supplemental and therapeutic feeding. Priority is being given to responses in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. For the medium-term, USAID/OFDA will address humanitarian needs in the areas of water and sanitation, coordination, and health, particularly preparing for outbreaks of endemic and other opportunistic diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis, cholera, and childhood diseases.

In addition to emergency humanitarian efforts for the food security crisis in Southern Africa, USAID programs are designed to reduce the risk of future crises through the Agricultural Initiative to Cut Hunger in Africa. The primary objective of the Initiative is to have a rapid and sustainable increase in agricultural growth and hence rural incomes in sub-Saharan Africa. That initiative will accomplish its objectives in part through advancing scientific and technological applications that will raise agricultural productivity and create agriculture-based enterprises, and improving the efficiency of, and participation in, agricultural trade and market systems.

In response to the ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic in the Southern Africa region, USAID's