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Southern Africa crisis response

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Project Country: Southern Africa Region
Project Number/Title: EMOP 10200/Southern Africa Crisis Response
WFP Food Cost: US$ 193,154,209
Total Cost: US$ 507,273,091
Number of Beneficiaries: 10,255,850
Duration: 9 months (1 July 2002 - 31 March 2003)


A. Background

Food security in the Southern Africa region is at its lowest level since 1992, when a devastating drought struck ten countries in the region. Today there are six countries in the region -Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe- where approximately 13 million people are facing a severe food crisis over the next nine months. These countries have generally benefited from sustained periods of peace and stability in recent years, allowing national governments to focus on development priorities. Recent shocks threaten to erode current development efforts. The contributing factors are many and vary from country to country, as does the severity of the crisis. Among the principal factors are a volatile mix of drought, floods, disruptions to commercial farming, the absence of effective food security and governance policies, depletion of strategic grain reserves, poor economic performance, foreign exchange shortages and delays in the timely importation of maize. The complex interaction between these dynamics is expected to dramatically reduce both availability of, and market access to, cereals throughout the region.

2. Underlying factors reduce household and national resilience to the current shocks. The region has the highest rates of HIWAIDS infection in the world, ranging from 13% of the adult population in Mozambique to over 25% in Swaziland. In addition to lost productivity, lost income, and increased time pressures on caregivers, the impact of HIWAIDS is changing family structures (with increasing numbers of elderly and child-headed households) as well as exceeding community care capacities throughout the region. Macro-economic indicators are in decline throughout the region. One indicative example is that the percentage of Malawi's population living below the poverty line increased from 60% in 1996 to 65% in 2001. Similar trends are found throughout the region (see Annex I for specific human development indicators).

3. The nutritional situation in the region is characterized by high levels of chronic malnutrition among children under five years of age. This is a reflection of the ever present vulnerability of the populations to a variety of risk factors related to food, health, and care. Although baseline global acute malnutrition levels among under fives reflect a typical development setting (5-10%), it is noted that the underlying vulnerability may lead to a rapid increase in acute malnutrition during the current crisis, which is expected to affect not only food intake but also health care and caring practices. Furthermore, chronic malnutrition, impairing physical and intellectual development, may increase beyond the baseline figures. Once set in, it is largely irreversible.

4. Thus, the current shocks, in concert with underlying food insecurity, high prevalence of HIWAIDS and chronic malnutrition, have led to a dire situation across the region that requires immediate humanitarian assistance.

B. Assessments

5. In anticipation of the impending crisis, national governments from each of the six affected countries requested FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions (CFSAMs). Conducted during the main harvest seasons in April and May 2002, the CFSAMs determined that there would be a 4,071,300 MT cereal deficit for the six countries combined up until March 2003. After accounting for anticipated government programmes and commercial imports, the missions determined that approximately 1.2 million tonnes of emergency cereal food aid will be required between April 2002 and March 2003 to assist 12.8 million vulnerable people. National Governments, SADC, the USAID-funded FEWS NET, SCF-UK, donors, NGOs, and a variety of other organizations were active contributors to the CFSAMs, resulting in a high-degree of consensus in the conclusions.

6. In each of the countries vulnerable populations were stressed last year as well, requiring many people to engage in negative, or distress, coping strategies. The CFSAMs learned of many such examples, including: withdrawing children from school, pre-mature consumption of harvest, sale of capital assets, on-farm crop theft, prostitution, migration both domestically (to urban areas and across districts) and internationally, increased time spent on casual labour that detracts from own-farm production, skipping meals, and eating wild and sometimes poisonous foods. Without large-scale humanitarian assistance, these distress coping strategies can be expected to occur again this year. The stretched coping capacity also illustrates the decreased resilience of vulnerable populations coming into this current crisis.

Table 1. Key findings of the CFSAMs regarding cereal food aid needs for each country.

Peak Pop in Need of Food Aid
Percent of total population in Need
MT Cereal Food Aid Needs through March
Cereal Food Aid as % of National Requirement

7. While the CFSAMs focused on national cereal balances and resulting food aid requirements, a humanitarian response will also require commodities other than cereals alone. Similar dynamics that affect cereal availability and access are also limiting access to other important food basket commodities such as pulses and oil.

8. The CFSAMS revealed the following characteristics of the food crisis in each country:

9. Lesotho: Severe weather variability, including hail and frost, for the second year in a row caused a decline of 33 % on an already poor harvest of the last season. Lesotho expects to have a total cereal deficit of 338,400 Mt for this consumption year (through March 2003). The country normally imports the majority of its cereals, as opposed to own production. This year, not only has local production declined dramatically, but the economic shock of increased retrenchment from South Africa and lost income due to HIV/AIDS (prevalence 24%) has meant that many households have minimal own farm production and as well cannot afford high maize prices. Women head 60 % of all households, and these households are frequently the poorest. The Government has already allocated about 2.3 million dollars for the procurement of maize meal for free distribution to the most needy section of the population, as well as for sale at a subsidised price to those who cannot afford to pay the market price.

10. Malawi: A poor 2001 harvest and mismanagement of the country's Strategic Grain Reserve and delayed grain imports led to critical shortages of food in markets late last year. This year's harvest is estimated to be 10% less than last year's poor harvest, leading to a total cereal deficit of 485,000 Mt. However the actual consumable harvest will be even lower because poor households, of which a large proportion are headed by women, have been eating an abnormally-high percentage of immature (green) maize in order to survive during the previous months of February-April. Although the immediate food shortages have now been temporarily relieved by the harvest, the food stocks for many households, which typically last up to December, will run out by September/October.

11. Record-high maize prices last year surpassed the average family's daily purchasing power by over three times. This year similar market trends are expected and will compound poor households' ability to meet their basic food needs. Due to the food crisis, the increase in the number of people searching for casual labour has led to a decline in opportunities and daily wage rates. Women and the elderly are directly affected as they are not as competitive in the casual labour market.

12. Mozambique: Severe dry weather during the 2001/2002 cropping season sharply reduced crop yields in southern and parts of central Mozambique. This comes on the heels of devastating floods in both 2000 and 2001 in the same areas. Although national cereal production is up 5% from 2001, there still remains a deficit of 642,000 Mt. The Northern region of the country had an overall surplus of 100,000 Mt, but this cannot be transported economically to the South due to long distances, poor infrastructure, and the proximity of markets in Malawi.

13. In addition to erratic rainfall, the overall economy is affected by reduced cash remittances from South Africa, particularly for households in southern Mozambique. In times of declining cash remittances, families headed by women are unable to hire labour for cultivation, reducing the area planted and household crop production. In southern Mozambique women head up to 60% of the rural households. For this group, the coming months will be particularly difficult.

14. Swaziland: Erratic weather for a third consecutive year, including a prolonged dry spell, severely affected crops. Production is 18% below last year's poor harvest and 37% below the average output in the last 5 years. The total cereal import requirement this year will be 111,000 Mt, over two times as much as last year. Declining employment and remittances from South Africa have compounded the food security situation, and forced more male migration than usual. This has increased the burden on women in terms of ensuring their household's food needs. Women head 30% of the rural households.

15. Zambia: Heavy crop losses from the drought in the West, South and East of the country have left more than one person in five, about 2.3 million people in need. Overall, there has been a substantial decline in maize production this season, partly due to irregular rainfall as well as inadequate fertilizer, and low quality seeds. Maize production is down 50-75% in affected areas as compared with the five year average. This year's total cereal deficit is expected to be 626,000 Mt. The heavy reliance of rural populations on a single crop, maize, makes them highly vulnerable to food shocks. Contributing to the crisis has been the inadequate handling of food security stocks, which have inhibited both the Government and the private sector's ability to address countrywide needs in a timely fashion.

16. The extremely high rates of HIWAIDS infection (20% in 2002) and chronic child malnutrition, 59% in 2002, highlight the underlying vulnerabilities of those in need. Absorptive capacities to care for orphans within the rural communities is stretched to the extent that urban relatives are called upon for support. Combined with the current food shortage situation, this will further spread the care burden into urban areas.

17. Zimbabwe: An immediate and severe food crisis continues to worsen in Zimbabwe, where the total cereal deficit is expected to be 1,869,000 Mt. The Government's inability to buy and import sufficient grain, a ban on private sector commercial grain imports, and price controls have drained the country of food stocks. At the same time, failure of rainfall in January and February 2002 decimated communal-sector crop production, and a 'fast-track' land reform led to a collapse of the commercial farming sector. It is estimated that cereal production has fallen by 57% from last year's already poor harvest. Grain is simply not available for sale for most people, and black-market prices are beyond the reach of most. Devaluation of the Zim Dollar is rampant at 120% per annum. Food security is further undermined by extremely high rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence, which affects approximately 25% of the adult population.

18. Successful intervention on the current food crisis will depend on government policy changes, including allowing private sector commercial imports, lifting price controls, and allowing private sector grain movements in the country. Without increased involvement of the private commercial sector, the food crisis will continue to worsen.

C. Key food security assumptions and risks

19. The FAO/WFP assessments were conducted during or immediately following the main harvest periods in each country, and attempted to forecast food security conditions through March 2003. During the nine months ahead there are a significant number of critical events which may affect assumptions made during the assessments, and indeed could require adjustment of the humanitarian response. These assumptions include:

  • That the outcome of the winter harvests in each country (due in August/September) will be as estimated in the CFSAM;

  • That government policies (particularly allowing private sector commercial imports and allowing markets to function) will enable effective humanitarian response;

  • That import commitments from large-scale private sector importers will be as estimated in the CFSAMs;

  • That the consumer price of maize and other key commodities will be within reach of non-beneficiary households;

  • That the upcoming main planting season will have reasonable conditions, ensuring not only a recovery period, but labour opportunities for rural households;

  • That outright civil unrest and large-scale displacement will not occur.If this does happen, not only will the needs increase, but the type of response will change. The political-economic situation in Zimbabwe, in particular, must be monitored very closely, as the volatile mix of factors there could lead to large-scale population displacement.

20. These assumptions are among the factors which will be continuously monitored through a collaborative food security assessment approach (see section VIII, Rolling Assessments). Contingency planning has played a key role in enabling WFP to respond quickly to the crisis in southern Africa. Ongoing contingency planning and preparedness, undertaken at the regional and country levels in collaboration with key partners, will be critical elements in ensuring the success of our collective response to the crisis.

D. Response

Table 2. Cereal Food Aid as compared to Overall Deficit and Commercial imports1

Total Cereal Deficit for Six Countries
Estimated Commercial Imports
Proposed WFP Cereal Distribution (EMOP 10200)
Outstanding Cereal Deficit to be Covered by Government Programmes and NGO Pipelines

21. WFP will cover 67% of the food aid cereal needs identified in the CFSAM reports (see tablel). Key factors guiding WFP's response planning include meeting the needs of the most vulnerable populations, realistic implementation capacity, enabling government policies and complementary government and NGO interventions. The critical role of the commercial sector and additional food aid needs to be covered by government programmes and NGO pipelines are highlighted in Table 2. Should the coverage by these other key stakeholders fall below the levels estimated, WFP may need to adjust upwards its emergency food aid requirements to ensure basic cereal food needs are met.

22. The crisis warrants a regional response. Although each country has unique circumstances that have led to the current crisis, HIWAIDS, climatic conditions, chronic malnutrition, economic inter-dependency during a time of declining macro-economic indicators, and the potential for international migration are cross-cutting issues throughout the region. Comprehensive programme design will benefit from a regional approach. Logistical operations will require a regional approach to avoid congestion, ensure smooth pipelines, and allow for flexibility in food distribution. Continual monitoring of food security conditions will also be coordinated from a regional perspective, allowing for comparable results across countries. Food security conditions in Namibia will also be closely monitored. As well, there are many regional institutions with which WFP will closely collaborate on programme, policy, logistical, and food security monitoring issues. The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) is a major coordinating body in the region, and WFP has already established close links to ensure an effective response.

23. Since September 2001, WFP has initiated emergency operations in the region to mitigate the early signs of food shortage, particularly in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Malawi followed with an initial intervention for selected areas in the country at the beginning of 2002, followed by a larger scale operation, approved in May 2002. Table 3 provides an overview of the numbers of beneficiaries targeted by the ongoing emergency operations, their food requirements and costs. As of June 21, 2002, the operations were approximately 50% resourced.

Table 3. Current WFP Emergency Operations in the southern Africa region

EMOP no.
No. of benef.
Food req. (MT)
Total cost (USD)
Contrib. as of 21 June
Approval date
28 May 2002
17 May 2002
13 Nov 2001
6 June 2002
6 June 2002
26 Nov 2001

24. Upon approval of the Regional Emergency Operation, all ongoing country specific EMOPs related to this particular crisis will be suspended, with stocks and funds carried over to the regional operation. New contributions will be solicited under the regional operation only.

25. To kick-start the WFP response to the crisis and to gear up the operational capacity of the Country Offices, US$ 5 million were released from WFP's Immediate Response Account. The funds are being used for start-up costs, to secure temporary staff, establish new sub-offices where needed and for purchase of commodities regionally.

26. A Special Operation (SO) for a WFP Regional Management Coordination Unit for the Southern Africa Crisis Response EMOP was approved by the Executive Director on 28 May for a total cost of US $ 3,445,153. An additional US$ 1 million from the WFP Immediate Response Account (IRA) has been approved for this so.

27. Humanitarian response to the current crisis will have to coincide with increasing needs leading up to the next main harvest in April/May 2003. While there are country-specific variations, three time periods capture the seasonal trends: July-August, September-November, and December-March 2003. The early stages follow the most recent harvest and require less assistance. September-November is a distinct period, as many households will run out of food stocks by September. This is also the field preparation and planting season. Without energy or with the need to be searching for casual labour, vulnerable farmers will not be able to prepare their fields, which could lead to a worsening of the food crisis in the future. This will also be a critical time for agricultural input interventions. The most critical food security period will be December through March 2003, when food stocks will be depleted, prices will be high, and humanitarian needs will be great. The next main harvest is expected in April 2003.

28. Although the current situation is characterized by a severe shortage of cereals, particularly maize, the reduced production capacity and purchasing power of many households demand a wider approach than the mere distribution of cereals. Food provision does not only address the survival needs of the individual. Availability of appropriate food items on a sufficiently wide scale will allow households and communities to maintain care and support structures, that are of particular importance in high HIWAIDS prevalence areas. Furthermore, adequate food provision will allow prioritization of household resources to a wide variety of needs, including education, health care, clothing and investments in productive activities.

29. Although there has been a severe deterioration in the food security situation for millions of people in southern Africa, a prompt response by donors combined with effective mechanisms for delivery and distributing emergency food assistance could prevent the current crisis from evolving into a humanitarian tragedy.


30. As noted in the background section, drought and erratic rainfall, combined with social, economic and political conditions specific to each country, have resulted in a severe food security crisis with regional dimensions. Declarations of disaster and/or requests for emergency assistance have been issued by the six countries included in this Regional EMOP. Given that drought and other types of natural disaster are recurring phenomena in Southern Africa, most of these Governments already had disaster management and co-ordination structures/mechanisms in place and have made efforts to further strengthen these in consultation with key stakeholders at both national and sub-regional levels. WFP is preparing an Implementation Strategy document which will provide more details on WFP, Government and Partner roles.

31. At the LIN Consultation on Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, convened on 6-7 June in Johannesburg, co-chaired by WFP and OCHA, the primary responsibility of Governments for promoting the food security of their populations was stressed. Participants called upon SADC and affected Member States to take all possible measures both to facilitate the delivery of relief aid and to minimise the levels of food aid required through external assistance. Promoting the role of the private sector and enabling commercial imports were cited as particularly important. Constructive dialogue among key stakeholders on policy issues which could constrain the effectiveness of the planned humanitarian response must be continued. Failure to do so would inevitably result in loss of life among those affected by the current crisis.


32. This operation will contribute towards saving lives and livelihoods in a context of adverse climatic conditions, economic decline and high HIWAIDS prevalence levels. While pursuing gender equality and advocacy for women's empowerment in access and management of food resources in all its operations, this EMOP directly aims to

  • prevent severe food shortages at household level that could lead to the deterioration of nutritional status and starvation;

  • safeguard the nutritional well being of vulnerable segments of the population such as People Living With HIWAIDS (PLWHA), children, expectant and nursing women, and the elderly;

  • preserve productive and human assets;

  • prevent distress migration from affected areas to urban centers and neighbouring countries.


33. This EMOP will provide assistance to a total of 10,255,850 people through a variety of food aid activities. Large scale food distributions through General Food Distribution (GFD) and Food For Work (FFW) will provide a contribution to the household food basket to 9,913,000 people. These people live in rural areas, affected by adverse climatic conditions, where coping strategies have been seriously depleted due to repeated natural stress factors and the increased burden of care for PLWHA, AIDS orphans and affected families. Typically the groups who have been most affected are those who have suffered two consecutive poor harvests, have little or no assets such as livestock, are single or no parent families, have no alternative income sources, and are dependant on purchasing food from markets.

34. The operation will also provide support to urban populations in Lusaka (Zambia), where reduced purchasing power and decreased access to markets has rendered them extremely vulnerable to food shortages. Furthermore, rural to urban migration and the support for large numbers of children, including orphans, from rural family members, have increased the care burden beyond the absorptive capacity.

35. Special support will be provided to school age children in Malawi and Lesotho so as to ensure their maintained attendance. Furthermore, malnourished children and expectant and nursing women at risk of malnutrition, will be targeted through selective feeding programmes in Malawi. Selective feeding will be provided across the country and thus will not target specifically as per the geographical vulnerability criteria.

Table 4. Gender disaggregated beneficiary figures (peak) of large scale food distribution (GFD/FFW).

Zimbabwe GFD
Malawi GFD
Zambia GFD
Mozambique GFD
Lesotho GFD
Swaziland GFD

36. Furthermore, particularly vulnerable people in Zimbabwe and Mozambique will receive support through targeted activities related to HIV/AIDS and nutritional risk factors. This support will be provided as a supplement to the GFD/FFW.

37. The complementary activities will provide support to a total of 2,740,700 people across the nine month period. This number includes the total of beneficiaries in selective feeding programmes in Malawi where the average duration of support is one month for therapeutic feeding and 3 months for supplementary feeding. Some 2,397,850 of these people are assumed to be from families covered under the GFD/FFW assistance. The remaining figure, 342,850, raises the total number of beneficiaries under this operation to 10,255,850:

  • Total beneficiaries through GFD/FFW: 9,913,000
  • Additional beneficiaries through complementary activities: 342,850
  • Total beneficiaries EMOP 10200: 10,255,850

Details by activity are provided in ANNEX II.


38. Targeting is required to identify and assist the most needy populations. There are three broad types of food aid targeting:

  • Geographic - by most vulnerable area
  • Temporal - by most crucial time period
  • Social - by household characteristics

In addition, there are groups with unique or specific needs.

39. The FAO/ WFP Food and Crop assessments have enabled WFP to clearly identify the geographic distribution of the crisis as well as the timing of when food assistance will be required. Social and Beneficiary targeting will need further assessments, and will require the local knowledge and input from community groups and collaborating partners. However, recognizing their specific vulnerability in accessing food sources, female, child and elderly headed households will be particularly accommodated, when targeting food aid to the most vulnerable families.

40. When estimating the extent of the WFP contribution to the Southern Africa Crisis Response, priority has been given to the most vulnerable people within the most severely affected areas. Furthermore, partner capacity with regard to accessing the most vulnerable communities and overall food handling, has guided the targeting exercise to ensure timely food deliveries to the most needy. The temporal beneficiary map in Annex III reflects the targeting of beneficiaries across the region in the three crucial time periods.

41. From the beginning of the operation (July), 6,111,000 people in the 6 countries will receive general food support (GFD, FFW), with a monthly distribution of 79,740 MT3. At the peak of the operation (December - March) the number of beneficiaries under the general food distribution will rise to 9,913,000 requiring about 129,080 MT/month. The increase in GFD/FFW beneficiary numbers by country and time period is reflected in Figure 1.

Figure 1. GFD Beneficiary numbers per month by country and time period.


42. At the start up of this EMOP in July 2002, approximately 6,111,000 individuals in targeted rural areas will receive support through large scale food distribution (GFD/FFW), providing a direct contribution to their household food baskets. As household stocks decline, the number will increase over time reaching 8,577,000 beneficiaries in September and 9,913,000 in December.

43. In Zambia WFP will provide support to 45,000 people in Lusaka. This is WFP's emergency contribution to an interagency programme targeting approximately 185,000 people in 4 key urban areas. This food provision will ensure assistance to families and institutions that are hosting AIDS orphans and children, mainly from rural HIV/AIDS affected families, seeking care and support with urban relatives. In Mozambique up to 100,000 vulnerable people within the target population, to be determined based on assessments, will be supported through provision of blended fortified food supplements. Intervention approaches will vary as per the assessed needs and may include HIWAIDS activities and selective feeding programmes. Similarly, in Zimbabwe, CSB will be available for either targeted activities or inclusion in the general food basket in severely affected, high HIV/AIDS prevalence areas.

44. In Mozambique, food relief support will be implemented through both FFW (first priority) and general food distributions, as per the availability of operational infrastructure, access and implementing partners. The existing FFW activities under the Country Programme's Food Fund for Development are focused on disaster mitigation and will, through a close link to the EMOP FFW, continue to facilitate the creation of productive assets. This is in line with the Government's Food Aid Policy, which stresses the utilisation of food assistance to reinforce activities that empower communities and especially women.

45. Although food support in Zimbabwe and Zambia will initially be channeled through GFD, alternative modalities, such as FFW, will be explored in accordance with beneficiary participation potential and partner implementation capacity.

Table 5. Overview of activities by country

Zimbabwe - General food distribution
- Vulnerable groups supplementation
Malawi - General food distribution
- Therapeutic feeding & caretaker support
- Supplementary feeding
  • under five community outreach
  • clinic based <5s, expectant & nursing women
- School Feeding
Zambia - General food distribution
- Food support to urban families hosting orphans and vulnerable children
Mozambique - General food distribution
  • Direct
  • FFW
- Vulnerable groups supplementation
Lesotho - General food distribution
- School Feeding
Swaziland - General food distribution

46. To protect vulnerable groups in areas affected by the emergency, existing school feeding activities under the current Country Programmes will be expanded to support school children in Malawi and Lesotho. The potential for emergency schoolfeeding activities in other countries will be explored through regular monitoring of school drop out rates and initiated according to the assessed need.

47. Supplementary and therapeutic feeding programmes in Malawi, currently supported under the Country Programme, are scaled up to meet the increased need for nutrition rehabilitative services for severely and moderately malnourished children and pregnant and lactating women. Similar activities are being considered in Lesotho in close collaboration with UNICEF and will be initiated as appropriate.

48. Although most food support will be channeled through general distributions, particular intervention modalities that are sensitive to the needs of PLWHA and most severely affected households will be explored in close collaboration with partner organizations.


1 Total cereal deficits and estimated commercial imports are derived from the FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission reports (April/May 2002). Although the cereal deficits are annual starting from April, actual deficits are expected to be realized at much higher levels as the year progresses.

2 This tonnage refers to actual distribution (727,059 MT cereal appeal plus 82,404 MT creal carry over)

3 Food tonnages do not include food to be made available for complementary activities.

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