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Southern Africa: March harvest to guide WFP future operations

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JOHANNESBURG, 10 February (IRIN) - The World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday said it still needed US $153 million before the coming harvest to stave off hunger across Southern Africa.
Although a recent contribution from South Africa of 100,000 mt of maize and a US $9 million donation from the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) had provided some relief, WFP said its regional Emergency Operation (EMOP) remained under- funded by approximately 30 percent.

The UN food agency also pointed to a funding shortfall for "unanticipated expenses" such as milling, fortification and re-routing of genetically modified (GM) maize.

Relief efforts have been complicated by most of the affected southern African countries accepting only milled GM maize. Zambia alone has rejected all GM food aid. WFP has had to remove existing stocks of GM maize in Zambia and transfer it to nearby Malawi.

Amid reports of another drought-related poor harvest there are now concerns that further funding would have to be sought to assist the most vulnerable well beyond March.

"In Zimbabwe field reports indicated grim prospects for the coming harvest. The erratic and low rainfall this season has wilted crops in many parts of the country. Hunger, during the planting season, has led some households to eat their seeds, which will affect planting outputs. Where some maize is doing well, households are consuming it green, meaning a lower harvest of dry grain," WFP said.

Zimbabwe has been the hardest hit by the region-wide food crisis with some 7.2 million people facing acute food shortages.

"It is a difficult to assess what the needs after March 2003 will be and how many people will in fact need assistance. A lot depends on the upcoming harvest which will determine WFP's operational capacity. There are also concerns over the erratic weather conditions as well as the impact of HIV/AIDS on agricultural output," WFP spokesman Richard Lee told IRIN.

"So far donor response to the food crisis has been fairly good and the famine in Southern Africa is still on the agenda of most donor governments," Lee added.

In July 2002 WFP launched an appeal for the US $507 million they would need to at that time meet 67 percent of the region's expected emergency needs until the March 2003 harvest.

Globally, WFP said more support was needed from regular donors, although the agency acknowledged that existing mechanisms were already stretched.

[ENDS]

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