Lesotho + 6 more

Southern Africa Food Security Update, September 2008

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- In most of Southern Africa, food security conditions have been stable since the 2008 harvests (April?June) and are expected to remain so until the peak of the hunger season (November?February). Overall, crop growing conditions were favorable last season. Regional maize production was above the past 5?year average and above last year's levels, largely due to South Africa's bumper crop. While most countries produced above average harvests, prospects for excellent harvests were compromised by excessive rains and flooding in December and January, followed by a dry spell in February and March. Elsewhere, such as Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe, and other localized areas where conditions were unfavorable and production was below average, households are already moderately food insecure.

- In July, the region's national vulnerability assessment committees (NVACs) indicated that a significant proportion of the region's population would be at risk of food insecurity during the April 2008?March 2009 consumption period, and would require some kind of assistance. These numbers were projected to peak at 8 million over the November to March hunger season. Food insecurity in Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, southern and parts of central Mozambique, southern and western Zambia, and parts of Malawi, has resulted from several factors, but especially poor harvests as a result of excessive rains and floods that led to loss of crops and disruption of livelihoods, followed by an end of season dry spell in February and March that also further reduced crop yields.

- Currently and during the upcoming hunger period, Zimbabwe faces (and will face) the most severe and prevalent levels of food insecurity in the region due to poor harvests resulting from adverse crop growing conditions in 2007/08 and the country's continuing economic and political crisis. A joint FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment mission in May estimated that the food insecure population would peak at about 5.1 million from January to March 2009. Recent assessments and further monitoring by the Zimbabwe NVAC have confirmed these results.

- Humanitarian assistance from governments, the UN, and other humanitarian agencies is critical between now and the start of the next early harvests in March 2009 to help stave off hunger and save livelihoods. Currently, these efforts have mitigated food insecurity through targeted food distribution and food for work or food for assets programs. Progress has been limited in Zimbabwe, where the government had suspended NGO activities through the end of August, delaying program implementation and assistance to an estimated 2 million beneficiaries. Humanitarian agencies have resumed operations and are expected to scale up assistance to meet the food needs of an increasing number of households between now and April 2009. In all countries, it will be critical for additional donor support to be secured to offset the current commodity shortfalls and expected pipeline breaks that WFP currently faces.