Lesotho + 5 more

Southern Africa: WFP launches massive regional appeal as starvation threatens millions

News and Press Release
Originally published
WFP has launched a US$ 507 million appeal to provide relief food to six countries in southern Africa, where millions risk starvation.
Johannesburg, July 5, 2002- With Southern Africa facing its worst food crisis in a decade, WFP has launched a massive regional appeal to feed millions of hungry people in six countries.

The Agency needs US$507 million to feed some 10.2 million people at risk of starvation in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zambia and Zimbabwe until the main harvest in March 2003.

The operation will target the most vulnerable families: HIV/AIDS victims and families headed by women, children and the elderly.

WFP estimates that seven million people require food immediately with this figure rising to just over 11 million from September to November and peaking at 12.8 million from December to March 2003. To date, WFP has been feeding 4.6 million.

However, these figures could rise as WFP experts monitor southern Africa's food security over the coming months.

With the region's rainy season due to start in October, WFP - the overall logistics coordinator for the emergency - aims to preposition one month's supply of food aid in country and two months in port, with one more en route.


A regional cocktail of drought , flooding, mis-government and devastated economies lies at the heart of the current crisis.

Malnutrition and the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection in the world have exacerbated the situation.

Follow our guide for country-by-country details of the worst crisis to hit southern Africa since the 1991/2 drought: its causes, how many people require food aid and the devastating human impact.


Lesotho's farmers are counting the cost of severe weather.

First, heavy rain delayed last year's planting; then, in March, frost damaged crops at the end of the growing season.

The government declared a state of emergency in April.

With cereal output a third down on 2001, WFP estimates that at the height of the crisis, some 444,800 people will require emergency food aid - many of them for up to a full year.

There is food on the markets but, with two-thirds of Lesotho living below the poverty line, most people cannot afford the soaring prices.

Many families are surviving on one meal per day; in desperation, people are stealing livestock, then sold to raise money for food.

There are few jobs for the people of Lesotho to fall back on. Unemployment, usually 30 percent, is rising because of the retrenchment of Basotho workers in South African mines.

HIV/AIDS is exacerbating the crisis.

Hunger in Lesotho: detail


Malawi is facing its worst crop failure since 1949 after a combination of floods and drought reduced the harvest to a fraction of the amount needed to survive.

Rampaging elephants and hippos also destroyed large tracts of crop fields in a number of lakeshore districts.

President Bakili Muluzi declared a state of emergency in February.

Unless food aid can be transported to Malawi in the coming months, WFP estimates that up to three million people will be on the verge of starvation by the end of the year.

With farmers turning to the market for their food, prices have skyrocketed 60 percent over the past 12 months - far beyond the reach of 65 percent Malawians who live below the poverty line.

Families are selling off their livestock at give-away prices to raise cash for food, farm tools, even cooking materials.

HIV/AIDS is also taking its toll with 19.5 percent of the population infected.

Hunger in Malawi: detail


A prolonged dry spell in southern and central Mozambique, lasting half the growing season, has killed crops across a vast area.

With the same areas still reeling from catastrophic floods in 2000, which washed away crops and drowned animals, an estimated 180,000 farmers in Mozambique have not had a full harvest in three years. Their family food stocks are exhausted.

WFP estimates that by October, some 515,000 people will require emergency food aid.

The rising demand for food in hunger-hit Malawi and Zambia is exacerbating the crisis, pushing market prices in Mozambique beyond the reach of the rural poor.

Many families are already getting by on just one meal a day, relying on wild foods to bolster their diet.

Ironically, Mozambique is set to export 100,000 metric tonnes of surplus maize currently considered too expensive to shift to the south.

Hunger in Mozambique: detail


It has been a second, successive year of erratic weather, including a dry spell just when the maize crop was flowering, for this land-locked mountainous country.

According to WFP estimates, some 144,000 people in Lowveld, Middleveld and Lubombo Plateau will require emergency food aid over the next six months.

In Lowveld, some 50 percent of farmers will harvest nothing.

Other alarm signs: school attendance has dropped significantly, rising cost of wheat and maize, 40 percent unemployment, HIV/AIDS affects 20-30 percent of the population.

Hunger in Swaziland: detail


WFP estimates that over two million Zambians will require emergency food aid after suffering a second successive bad harvest.

Prolonged dry spells and erratic rains are the main culprits, affecting five out of Zambia's nine provinces.

The Southern Province is the worst-affected, with a staggering 60 percent of the population needing food aid. The maize crop was an almost total failure.

Last year's maize production fell by a quarter, after severe flooding hit southern and eastern Zambia. This means most farmers have little in reserve to cope with the current crisis.

In the south, many Zambians are collecting, selling and eating wild foods just to get by. Others have resorted to crop-stealing and poaching.

Large numbers of children are dropping out of school because of the hunger.

Even when the rural hungry can afford to buy food, Zambia's low population density means they have to make an exhausting journey on foot over tens of kilometres just to reach the marketplace.

The 20 percent rate of HIV/AIDS is stopping thousands of young people working in the fields.

Hunger in Zambia: detail


Hunger has gripped Zimbabwe with over five million people in desperate need of food aid. The Zimbabwe Government declared a State of Disaster in April 2002

Zimbabwe's longest drought in 20 years, which has left crops withering across the country, is partly responsible for staggering shortages - a 1.497 million metric tonne cereal gap - together with the near collapse of large-scale commercial farming due to land reform activities.

Exceptionally high rainfall has also played a hand, undermining the 2001 harvest.

According to WFP, the worst-hit are poor rural communities in the south, west and extreme north, the urban poor and an estimated 825,000 commercial farm workers who have lost their livelihoods.

The Agency estimates that over six million will be relying on food aid by the end of the year.

The Grain Marketing Board at Harare can only distribute 400-2,000 tonnes of grain per day. Demand is closer to 5,000.

The food crisis has had a dramatic impact on everyday life: long queues for food are now commonplace; some families are travelling 70 kilometres to buy maize; people are surviving on one meal per day.

Hunger in Zimbabwe: detail