Appeal coverage: 61%
Summary: The overall response to the appeal has been very positive, and most operations are now well under way. A large number of beneficiaries are receiving food aid through the Southern Africa Food Security Operations, answering to the growing need for food assistance in the region. There are, however, deep concerns within the Federation and among other relief agencies about the food security situation among the most vulnerable people in Southern Africa, such as the large group of people infected or affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. With repeated crop failure in some parts of the region, the need for further food assistance will remain in Southern Africa. Especially households headed by children and elderly, as well as families where working adults are ill because of AIDS will remain in need for continued food support and other humanitarian aid.
This operations update is designed to give an overview of all activities in the Southern Africa Food Security Operation on a monthly basis, focusing on the most recent developments. The Operations Update is intended to show what has been accomplished against each objective in the appeal as well as objectives that have been added to the operations during later stages.
Due to the complexity and size of the operation, the Operations Update cannot provide all the details for every activity, and for a more precise summary and overall statistics, readers are referred to the Operations Fact Sheet which is complementary to the Operations Update, updated on a monthly basis, and reflects in chart format the activities implemented against the objectives of the operations. The operations fact sheet and the operations update are available on www.ifrc.org and are both updated on a regular basis.
Changes in planned activities
Due to changing circumstances caused by the various factors that influence the food security in the region, there have been significant alterations to the planned activities of the Southern Africa Food Security Operation. Activities are expanding to cover an increasing number of beneficiaries and the Federation is hopeful that it will be able to adapt to changes in needs and secure the food security of an increasing number of beneficiaries. It has proven necessary to add a number of activities to the operations and targets for other objectives have been revised. Operations Updates attempt to articulate or clarify these changes as they occur.
Critical operational issues have been addressed in a recently carried out options assessment with the participation of technical experts from the Federation's Secretariat, the British Red Cross, and the Swaziland Red Cross. Findings from the assessment team and options for future programming will be discussed during a partnership meeting scheduled to be held in Nyon, Switzerland at the end of March, 2003.
The applicability of a buffer stock has been re-assessed and all activities related to these objectives are presently on hold. Buffer stock is unlikely to become necessary in the short term, and would involve additional expenses and administration to be successfully implemented. A continued need for a constant flow of food is expected for months to come, and existing pipelines have proved sufficient to ensure enough food supply for ongoing distributions. More detailed explanations of changes in plans regarding buffer stock can be found in operations update no 15.
The Southern Africa Food Security Operations have made it necessary for the operating national societies to recruit a large number of staff and volunteers, hold various training courses, open new branches and expand their office spaces, and purchase office equipment such as computers, phones, furniture etc. There are great demands on the mobility of Red Cross workers and volunteers and has made it inevitable to purchase new vehicles, motorcycles and mobile phones etc. New staff and volunteers need Red Cross training and often other types of professional instruction before they can contribute to the over all capacity of the national societies in Southern Africa.
The long term affects of drought and HIV/AIDS
The Southern Africa Food Security Operations are scheduled to end in July 2003, and there are signs that the harvest of 2003 will be significantly better than last year in many regions. Some regions have, however, been hit by severe droughts or floods and there are alarming signs that in these areas the disaster will not be finished at the end of the period of operations. The HIV/AIDS pandemic that has been steadily spreading over the past years has a growing impact on social structures, among them agriculture. The people who are at greatest risk of dying from the disease belong to the most productive generations, which deprives households of the main supporters of families and the work force of society in general. A very serious reduction in the productive population of southern Africa is now having a deep impact on food security in the region. A part of the long-term approach needed to address the food security situation in southern Africa is the commitment to AIDS/HIV prevention and treatment as a part of long-term operations.
HBC programmes as the most effective means of reaching the most vulnerable
The Federation activities are focusing on the need to assist the people who are most vulnerable to the present situation, and have the least means to provide food for themselves and their families. The Southern Africa Food Security Operation is closely linked to existing Red Cross programmes in the region, most notably the home based care programmes and health clinics. Through these existing structures the Federation has been able to reach many of the most vulnerable people in society, especially the large number of people living with AIDS, who were already receiving valuable care and social support before distributions of food started through the Food Operation. General food shortages in the community affect people living with AIDS more than those who are healthy and able to work. The food assistance is now in many instances the only means of nutritional support that many are able to get.
Although there are signs that agricultural outputs will improve, this will only to a very limited extent benefit the large numbers of people living with AIDS who are unable to work and have no means of purchasing food. In the long run this growing group of vulnerable people has no hope of complete recovery, and will remain in need of food support from one source or another.
Unless there is a continuation of the Southern Africa Food Security Operations, a large number of vulnerable people will lose their means of support by July, as many of the most vulnerable will remain unable to earn an income or plant their fields. The food crisis in Southern Africa is a long-term problem, and the short-term impact of the present food support will only to a limited extent have an impact on the ability of beneficiaries to cope with continued shortages. Making the already existing Red Cross home based care structures in Southern Africa serve as foundation for a long term approach could, however, turn out to be one of the most effective approach by humanitarian actors to address the severe difficulties faced by people living with AIDS in the region. Eventually adding the increased food component to the home based care programme as medium or long term assistance may greatly enhance the effectiveness of the care and support that is already being provided through the extensive network of Red Cross volunteers in Southern Africa.
This and other operational issues have been addressed in an options assessment recently carried out, and the findings will be discussed during the partnership meeting scheduled to be held in Nyon, Switzerland at the end of March, 2003.
Providing sustainable assistance through agricultural inputs.
The distribution of seeds and fertilizers by the Federation has enabled many farmers to plant fields that would otherwise not have been used due to lack of resources. A continued drought situation is, however, having an impact on these families, and the beneficiaries of agricultural starter packs may in many cases need further assistance.
In response to the climate changes and the resulting lack of water, the Federation has initiated extensive irrigation initiatives, providing irrigation pumps to affected farmer communities and assisting in the construction of wells and dams. Irrigation enables farmers to avoid the risk of crop failure caused by insufficient rains, making it much safer to depend on high yield crops such as maize. Due to the extreme poverty in the region, and the high toll that HIV/AIDS is still taking on the most capable generations, irrigation is, however, unlikely to serve but a part of the vulnerable farmers in the region. Using irrigation systems requires not only skills but also capital, as well as higher incomes to meet the cost of maintaining them. Such assistance is therefore not applicable to individual households with limited working or financial capacity, such as families headed by elderly or children.
In designing sustainable assistance for impoverished rural households, it is important to plan for the period following the end of the present operations, in order to secure that established projects can be sustained by communities or individual farmers. Developing and sustaining advanced farming techniques such as irrigation may not be easy for households with limited resources. In those cases a simpler approach may be needed, for example growing other crops that are less vulnerable to the dry climate, such as cassava or sorghum, thereby greatly reducing vulnerability in case of drought. Such changes may, however, prove difficult to implement, as the present farming and food culture is deeply ingrained in the lifestyles of Southern Africa. Maize is the preferred food staple in the region, and farmers are not necessarily eager to change.
The agricultural starter packs that have been distributed through the Southern Africa Food Security Operations are designed to provide farmers with an opportunity to start their production again and to become independent of assistance in the long run. The success of the starter packs remains, however, dependent on a favorable climate. Repeated serious drought threatens to place many beneficiaries in the same position as before the assistance, and further agricultural support is likely to be needed after the end of these operations in July 2003.
Water and Sanitation
Water and sanitation projects included in the Southern Africa Food Security Operations address the difficult access to sufficient clean water in many parts of the region. Access to good water is one of the most important factors in reducing the risk of contracting the many diseases caused by the consumption of impure water. There have been several cholera outbreaks in the region since the beginning of the operations, accentuating the importance of addressing water related problems. It is important to combine water and sanitation initiatives with other projects belonging to the Southern Africa Food Security Operations in order to maximize the impact of food distributions. Low nutrition levels are combined with general vulnerability and susceptibility to infectious disease. Diarrhoea, which is mainly caused by unclean drinking water, is one of the main reasons of death among children under five, and the lack of food has weakening effects on children's resistance against disease.
Water and sanitation activities are now being implemented in Zambia, Zimbabwe and plans are being finalized for Malawi, where implementation will start in March. Water and sanitation activities included in the operations have been partly revised from the original plans that are outlined in the appeal, and a number of projects has been included. The revised activities are reviewed in this operations update, and more precise details are available in operations fact sheet no 3.
In large operations such as the present Southern Africa Food Security Operations, covering activities in 5 large countries, telecommunications are a very important part of securing the effectiveness of co-ordination and implementation of food distributions and other projects. Much of Southern Africa has limited transportation and communications systems, which makes it vital to establish and maintain functioning HF and VHF radios in Red Cross vehicles and operations bases, both for security reasons, and also to enable effective co-ordination and administration of the complex activities.
The telecommunication delegate based at the OMCC in Johannesburg has finished installing and programming HF and VHF radios in many of the most important locations and vehicles. Between the 28th of January and the 21st of February the delegate traveled to Zambia where he visited TSP (transport support package) workshops and Federation offices in Chipata, Choma, Lusaka, Livingstone and Maamba. The delegate installed and programmed a number of HF radios in vehicles and offices, and trained staff in using the equipment. The vehicles that needed HF radios are mainly Toyota Land-cruisers, belonging to the Federation, the national society, and the Netherlands Red Cross which is involved in bilateral activities that are a part of the Southern Africa Food Security Operations. Other vehicles where HF radios have been installed are Land-Cruisers that are a part of the Federation's Transport Support Package. VHF radios, which have only a short range, were also installed in several vehicles and at Federation locations. Several handsets have also been taken into use and the delegate has provided training for their utilization.
There are still several outstanding tasks in Zambia regarding installation of both HF and VHF radios in Zambia, and delays in deliveries of the equipment are the main hindrance to implementing radio installations. In March the telecommunication delegate will complete the outstanding issues regarding installations and programming of HF and VHF radios, as well as training staff in the use of the equipment. A large number of radios will also be installed in Malawi and Lesotho, including a number of HF, VHF and VHF handset radios. Finally a HF Pactor enabled radio may need to be installed at the Federation's Operations Management and Co-ordination Centre in Johannesburg in South Africa.
GENERAL FOOD DISTRIBUTION
To ensure secure transportation of food from the main warehouse to distribution points, and to ensure timely and fair distribution to the targeted households.
As a part of the Southern Africa Food Security Operation, the Federation aims at providing WFP food to 103,000 beneficiaries in Thaba Tseka and Mokhotlong districts in Lesotho through general food distributions in the country. Beneficiaries are selected by the Lesotho Red Cross and the Federation according to WFP criteria, and the food is distributed by the Lesotho Red Cross. Each family receives a monthly ration consisting of 50 kg of maize, 5 kg of beans and 2 litres of vegetable oil.
During the first months of the operations, the Federation was confronted with various obstacles caused by late arrival of funds and bureaucratic obstacles to importing food items into the country. The first distribution round of WFP food in Lesotho started at the beginning of October, reaching 27,899 beneficiaries from 7,597 households in Mokhotlong in the first distribution round. Subsequent distribution round in November reached 38,512 beneficiaries belonging to 8,871 households in the same district. In December distributions reached 35,145 beneficiaries in 9,266 households. The fourth distribution round commenced on the 13th of January, targeting 35,777 beneficiaries belonging to 9,166 households.
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