Southern African food crisis - Australia urged to do more

Report
from Australian Council for Overseas Aid
Published on 04 Oct 2002
Aid agencies have called on the Australian Government to provide more funds for urgent food relief to counter a humanitarian disaster unfolding in southern Africa. They have also asked the Australian community to dig deep in supporting current emergency appeals.
"300,000 people are at risk of dying of starvation right now" said Rhonda Chapman, Acting Executive Director. "This is an opportunity for Australia to demonstrate that it continues to have a humanitarian heart even when we are dealing with drought in our own country."

According to the UN World Food Program, over 14 million people spread across seven countries are on the very edge of survival and require immediate humanitarian assistance. The countries worst hit are Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. (See Table A)

"Australian aid agencies are providing much needed food relief to affected communities" said Ms Chapman. "This includes feeding centres for children as well as continuing their support to ensure long-term food security through irrigation and seed distribution."

"Aid agency programs are focused on addressing the spread of HIV/AIDS which is devastating rural communities throughout the region. In many countries, this is the second or third year of food shortages. These people have no reserves and are extremely vulnerable" said Ms Chapman.

"While we congratulate the Australian Government on the significant funds they have already provided to help address the crisis, the World Food Program (WFP) has reported that their program in Southern Africa is currently only 36% funded. WFP is only confident about cereals deliveries until the end of December. But the number of those in need of food aid is projected to rise until at least March 2003."

In addition to emergency food relief, aid agencies are also calling for an immediate moratorium on debt payments by Malawi, Zambia and the other heavily indebted nations affected by the food crisis in southern Africa.

"Zambia and Malawi, both of which have declared national food emergencies, continue to be saddled with onerous multilateral debt payments. The $248 million in annual debt repayment from three of the six southern African nations now facing famine, is more than half the value of the food aid needed to feed the whole region through to next March."

"A concerted effort is needed to avert disaster" concluded Ms Chapman. "This should be led by the Australian Government in providing more emergency assistance, supplemented by the generous donations of the Australian community, and complemented by international action to declare a moratorium on debt repayments by these countries."

For further information contact: Rhonda Chapman on 02 6285 1816 or 0402 318 703

Table A
Populations in Need of emergency Food Aid and Cereal Requirements (MT) 1 September 2002 through 31 March 2003*

Country
Most vulnerable population
in need of food aid
at peak of crisis
Percent of
population
in need
Cereal Food Aid
needs until March
(tonnes)
Zimbabwe
6,700,000
49%
486,000 MT
Malawi
3,300,000
29%
237,000 MT
Zambia
2,900,000
26%
224,000 MT
Lesotho
650,000
30%
36,000 MT
Swaziland
270,000
24%
20,000 MT
Mozambique
590,000
3%
48,000 MT

* Numbers are rounded Source: SADC

Table B
ACFOA Member Response to the Crisis

ACFOA urges Australians to show their support by donating to their agency of their choice.

The following Australian agencies are conducting appeals to assist the people of Southern Africa. They are signatories to the ACFOA Code of Conduct, which requires high standards of public accountability, and to the Sphere Standards, which sets minimum standards for the response to humanitarian emergencies.

AngliCORD: 1800 249 880

Australian Foundation for Peoples of Asia & the Pacific: 1800 007 308

Australian Lutheran World Service: (02) 6021 5329

Australian Red Cross: 1800 811 700

Baptist World Aid Australia: 1300 789 991

CARE Australia: 1800 020 046

Caritas Australia: 1800 024 413

Every Home for Christ: (02) 9570 8211

Oxfam Community Aid Abroad: 1800 034 034

Plan Australia: 1800 038 100

Save the Children: 1800 337 283

UNICEF Australia: 1300 884 233

World Vision: 13 32 40

For more information of the ACFOA Code of Conduct and the Sphere Minimum Standards, see the ACFOA website -- www.acfoa.asn.au