Lesotho + 5 more

Southern African Humanitarian Crisis Update - 19 May 2003

Situation Report
Originally published
Covering the period 23 April to 16 May
Bi-monthly Update

RIACSO provides support to the national efforts in addressing the Southern African crisis and ensures cohesion and complementarity of the effort at a regional level. In addition, RIACSO supports the UN Secretary General's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, Mr. James Morris, in his mandate to raise awareness of the situation, its underlying causes and to provide recommendations on how to strengthen the humanitarian response and mobilize donor support for the affected countries.


IASC Endorses "Next Steps" Report

The "Next Steps for Action in Southern Africa" report of the Special Envoy of the Secretary General for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, Mr. James Morris, was endorsed by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Plenary Meeting on 24 April 2003, in Paris. The report outlines the immediate actions needed to address immediate needs as well as longer-term objectives in the region.

Subsequent to the endorsement, the UN agencies began to initiate the preparations of an updated Regional Assistance Plan for the period of July 2003- to March 2004.

New approach needed to food security

A report released on 7 May 2003 by SADC reported that new approaches are needed to food security in the region. Although the impact of HIV/AIDS is now well recognized, the critical question is what affected households can do to halt the slide into poverty. "The impacts of HIV/AIDS on food security in the context of the 2003 food emergency are strong and negative. It also suggests that these impacts are complex and require urgent and innovative responses in the 2003-4 marketing year and beyond". It suggested a "three-pronged attack" through humanitarian assistance programming and government policy, focusing on consumption-side support, productivity enhancement and household and community safety nets.

The report also examines the question of whether or not HIV/AIDS, in its own right, warrants emergency programming even if the 2003 and subsequent harvests are good. This is particularly important given the expected exponential growth in the disease over the next 10-12 years. The report concluded that " a paradigm shift in the way that development and emergency programming is implemented in the region to tackle effectively this growth is an issue that needs to be raised at all decision-making levels".

The full SADC report, "Towards Identifying Impacts of HIV/AIDS on Food Insecurity in Southern Africa and Implications for Response: Findings from Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe" can be found on www.reliefweb.org

Floods in Caprivi Strip, northeastern Namibia

Namibian President Sam Nujoma visited the northeastern Caprivi Strip on 12 May to assess damages caused by the worst floods in 21 years, which have so far killed two people and threatened 5,000 others. The floods, caused by the Zambezi River bursting its banks, have affected 22 villages. On 13 May, the Namibian Government issued a press release calling for international support. A Situation Report has been issued by OCHA and can be found at www.reliefweb.org

Supplementary and therapeutic feeding programmes

UNICEF-supported supplementary and therapeutic feeding programmes continue in the region. In Mozambique, around 80,000 women and children under the age of five are benefiting from a supplementary feeding programme in six districts. UNICEF has provided therapeutic milk, medical supplies, and technical support to therapeutic feeding in seven out of Mozambique's ten provinces. In Zimbabwe, 181,000 children in five districts have been part of a supplementary feeding programme since October 2002. UNICEF provides support for the development of national guidelines for treating severe malnutrition as well as direct support to 17 hospitals and 17 NGO-supported facilities running therapeutic feeding programmes in the country. In Zambia, food, drugs, and materials have been provided to 25 therapeutic feeding centers in the drought-affected Southern and Western provinces. In Malawi, 20,000 moderately malnourished children have been supported through a supplementary feeding programme whilst 1,230 severely malnourished children are cared for in 27 nutrition rehabilitation centers, supported by UNICEF. UNICEF and WFP are working together in Lesotho to feed 50,000 moderately malnourished children with UNIMIX in supplementary feeding points in two districts.

The EU approves 13 million euro in humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe

The EU has adopted a 13 million euro humanitarian aid package to support vulnerable people affected by drought and food shortages in Zimbabwe. The funds provided by the EU's Humanitarian Aid Office, ECHO, will help improve nutrition, food, water and sanitation levels and combat HIV/AIDS. ECHO's partners working in the field will implement the projects. ECHO has now committed 29.2 million euro to help combat the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe since 2001.

Swaziland: Impact of HIV/AIDS could be worse than that of drought

HIV/AIDS, more than drought conditions, has the potential for worsening Swaziland's continuing food crisis, a joint Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned. "HIV/AIDS is overshadowing everything" said Anthony Pope, WFP/FAO mission's agronomist. Swaziland's adult HIV infection rate is estimated to be 38.6%. The drought's effects are made worse because of AIDS. "It is also devastating traditional Swazi life, because before we were all able to help one another in the fields," said Chief Malunge of Nyangeni. The Swazi Government will launch an appeal to the international community for food aid based on the data from this report.

Cereal harvest 'generally favourable' for Southern Africa

FAO has reported that the outlook for Southern Africa's cereal harvest is "generally favorable". Concerns remain for Zimbabwe, where production is expected to fall below requirements for the third consecutive year. Despite an initial delay to the start of the rains, abundant rainfall since mid-February has improved crop conditions. South Africa is forecasting a four million ton surplus in its maize harvest for this season. This has resulted in a 40% drop in the price of maize in US dollar terms. While this is positive news in terms of food availability, the numbers of people acutely vulnerable to food shortage will remain high, due to endemic poverty, weak country-level distribution systems, diminished household purchasing power and transport problems.

Of particular note is the deteriorating food security situation in southern Mozambique. The Famine and Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) reported that yield forecasts indicate production may be above normal in the north, below normal in the center and well below normal in the south because of high transport costs. It is anticipated that WFP's assistance to Mozambique will increase this year.

Zimbabwe Government revises policy on commodity pricing:

The Government of Zimbabwe announced on 6 May 2003 that it would remove price controls on all but five basic commodities: maize grain, maize meal, bread, wheat and flour and announced that it would monitor the prices of other essential commodities such as agricultural inputs and implements, cooking oil, sugar, stock feed, salt, medicines, coal and cement.

Furthermore, Zimbabwe state media reported that the Zimbabwe Government will allow individuals to sell limited quantities of grain throughout the country, relaxing restrictions that make its Grain Marketing Board (GMB) the sole buyer and seller of grain. Permits obtained from the GMB depots will allow the movement from 150 kilos to 10 tons of grain countrywide. In addition, up to 150 kilos of grain can be sold throughout the country without a permit and communal farmers can sell small quantities of grain in rural areas.

Zimbabwe fuel price hikes and electricity shortages:

It is believed that Zimbabwe is moving towards an unprecedented fuel crisis, as the Government is increasingly unable to pay suppliers who are now demanding hard cash before delivery to avoid further exposure to mounting debts. Official sources say that Zimbabwe is nearly dry and would not get fuel for the next few weeks unless the Government finds significant amounts of foreign currency to import. Zimbabwe needs $US 40 million a month for fuel.

Similarly, the country is also undergoing serious electricity shortages, which have now spread to the agricultural sector, forcing farmers to reduce the hectarage for winter maize and wheat. Zimbabwe normally grows between 85,000 and 100,000 hectares of winter crops using overhead irrigation systems, using electrically driven pumping engines. Agricultural experts have reported that because of the power shortage in the country, the winter crop would be reduced by 75%.

Refugees repatriated from Zambia:

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has begun repatriating more than 5,000 Rwandans living in Zambia as refugees. The first 16 refugees arrived in the Rwandan capital Kigali on 2 May 2003. The repatriation follows a tripartite agreement between UNHCR and the governments of Zambia and Rwanda.

Upheaval in ruling party in Malawi continues:

Another senior official of the ruling party in Malawi announced his resignation at the beginning of May. Jan Sonke sited the party's failure to "reduce poverty, strengthen democracy and improve the economy" as reasons for his resignation. He is the third high-ranking official to leave the party following a recent controversial decision by President Muluzi to dissolve his entire cabinet and name Bingu wa Mutharika - a political newcomer- as the UDF's candidate for the 2004 presidential elections.


1. Food security

Zambian Government bans maize imports:

The Zambian government has halted the importation of fresh maize stocks and opted to buy the commodity locally following predictions of a good harvest by the Zambian National Farmers Union (ZNFU). The Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister this week said that the government was "confident there was enough maize locally to feed the country and importing would "kill" the local market. Zambia's national monthly maize consumption is 40,000 mt according to government studies. Last year Zambia declared a national disaster after the country's maize crop failed for the second consecutive year due to severe drought, threatening the food security of 2.9 million people. For more details, see www.irinnews.org

FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions:

FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions (CFSAM) are being concluded in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The CFSAM is a tool used by FAO's Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS) to assess crop production estimates and by WFP to investigate sub-national food access issues. The mission's objectives are to assess the country's crop production, estimate levels of existing food stocks, review the overall food supply situation and draw up national food balance sheets indicating the magnitude of the food gap. CFSAM is done at the request of respective governments. The Chief of the FAO/GIEWS will present the results of the CFSAMs at the RIACSO/IASC stakeholders meeting taking place on 11 and 12 June 2003, in Johannesburg.

HIV/AIDS awareness during food distribution

In collaboration with WFP and UNFPA, UNICEF in Zambia teamed up with NGOs, CARE and World Vision, to carry out an emergency project. The project links food distributions around the country with HIV/AIDS communication and community empowerment activities. In November 2002, World Vision trained about 200 drama performers from 17 drought-affected districts on HIV/AIDS and participatory approaches to theatre. Since then more than 200 participatory drama performances have been conducted at food distribution points in rural areas, where people usually wait for hours for their food rations. The performances provide information on HIV/AIDS and trigger group discussions on community vulnerability and response. CARE has trained 180 of its own food monitors and staff on basic facts about HIV/AIDS and supervised drama performances at 140 distribution points in six drought-affected districts, and World Vision has implemented 60 such plays. Condoms are also made available, and UNICEF-printed flyers and brochures on HIV/AIDS are distributed. Coca-Cola has provided support by transporting and distributing 180,000 brochures.

With the addition of a mobile video van donated by UNFPA, and funding from WFP, UNICEF partner NGOs are expanding activities in the Southern Province to rural and urban areas surrounding food distribution sites.

In Malawi, some 400 young people were trained to conduct HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns during food distribution. The issues covered included voluntary counseling and testing, stigmatization and discrimination of HIV positive people, nutrition and HIV, safe sex, and the dangers of sexual exploitation. The campaign used various channels of communication such as interactive drama, songs, poetry, and focus group discussions. To date these activities have taken place in five districts (Machinga, Blantyre, Mwanza, Mzimba and Kasungu). UNICEF works with WFP to decide upon distribution sites and dates. Food distribution will go on until end May 2003 with the campaign continuing accordingly.

2. Health

Malaria in Zimbabwe

Following WHO's malaria warning for many countries in southern Africa in April, the latest Situation Report issued by the Office of the Resident Coordinator for Zimbabwe said on 14 May that almost 29,000 cases of the disease have been reported in the country so far this year. According to WHO, the increase in the number of cases could be attributed to the after effects of cyclone Japhet which struck parts of the country earlier this year, leaving floods that provided breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Furthermore, the number of illegal gold panners has increased this year. They are particularly susceptible to malaria, as many have migrated from non-malaria areas and had not developed any immunity. WHO has already secured anti-malaria drugs and supplies, which have been distributed to some of the most affected districts by various NGOs, while the Ministry of Health had increased its malaria-fighting budget. It is hoped that the onset of winter will also see case numbers drop.

Health surveillance in Zimbabwe

Weekly surveillance data reports from the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in Zimbabwe show a marked decrease in accuracy in the reporting of epidemic diseases. Training sessions on Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response are planned in all the provinces starting in mid May 2003. For more information see the Zimbabwe Humanitarian Situation Report of 12 May on www.reliefweb.org.

3. Social Services

Keeping children in school

To prevent children from dropping out of school due to food shortages, UNICEF and its partners are supporting school feeding programmes in the six crisis-affected countries, providing school material and rehabilitating school water and sanitation systems.

In Mozambique, where dropout rates of 4 percent were recorded towards the end of 2002, UNICEF provided educational kits for 240,000 children and 6,200 teachers in drought-affected districts at the beginning of the school year. Primary schools in Sofala, Manica, Tete and Zambezia provinces will soon benefit from the installation of 60 new water points near the schools. In Zimbabwe, six districts are fully covered by school feeding while 38 districts benefit from partial feeding. In Zambia a survey in October 2002 found dramatic drop out rates of up to 40 percent in the drought-affected Southern province. UNICEF and partners have started a pilot school project in the province combining school feeding, water and sanitation rehabilitation, HIV/AIDS education and life skills training, provision of school kits, and school gardening. The project reaches 10,000 children in three districts in the Southern province. In Swaziland, nearly 30,000 children from 80 primary schools are part of a school feeding scheme, and water and sanitation facilities in the same schools will be rehabilitated in the near future. Finally in Malawi, UNICEF staff visited schools in Lilongwe rural district to monitor school attendance after educational supplies were distributed at the beginning of the school year in January 2003. They found that school attendance had indeed increased, particularly for standards one and two, and that teachers attributed the increase to the new school supplies. School feeding in Malawi takes place in more than 200 primary schools.


A one-day workshop was held on 14 May in Gwanda, Zimbabwe, to follow up on the joint UN/RRU, FAO, UNICEF, WHO and IOM mission that took place to Matabeleland South Province. This mission was fielded in response to the Presidential declaration of a state of disaster in the province. The main objective of the workshop was to discuss ways to strengthen humanitarian coordination and augment current humanitarian activities, particularly with regard to food security, water and sanitation.

The Office of the Resident Coordinator in Swaziland facilitated a training of local media personnel on Humanitarian Crisis Reporting from 12-16 May 2003 in Mbabane. The objective of the training was to instill among the media the importance of responsible and factual reporting for a country facing an emergency situation. It was attended by journalists, editors and media trainers from the University of Swaziland.

SPECIAL FOCUS ON: Fighting the Stigma of AIDS:

In order to combat the pandemic, it is important to challenge stigmas related to HIV/AIDS and in particular address the needs of orphans. Orphans are particularly vulnerable and mechanisms need to be put into place for their support.

In southern Africa, 3.2 million children are AIDS orphans A recent conference in Kenya that brought together officials from donor organizations, UN agencies and representatives from several religious groups, was concerned with the impact of HIV/AIDS on orphans and their potential marginalization. "These children need education, feeding and nurturing... otherwise the option will be the emergence of a large proportion of our society who will have developed anti-social instincts because of their hard life," emphasized the President of the All Africa Conference of Churches. He urged that rural areas where 70% of Africa's population live, be targeted with regards to the fight against AIDS. Public awareness campaigns do not tend to reach rural people due to poverty and a lack of infrastructure. There must therefore be a concerted effort to take awareness into these areas.

Critical to awareness is challenging the stigmas that not only take away the dignity of people, but make them reluctant to find out and reveal their status, "... it is the stigma and misinformation around HIV that is killing people", President of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has declared. A Red Cross report notes that many women in Africa who are ill continue to breastfeed their babies, putting them at risk, rather than face social stigma as a sufferer of AIDS. This year, the World Red Cross Crescent Day 2003 launched phase II of 'The Truth About AIDS' anti-stigma campaign producing a series of stamps that counter myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS transmission.

The Red Cross is establishing other kinds of support mechanisms for those living with HIV/AIDS and for orphans in particular. Its recent work in Lesotho has been an attempt to intervene and pre-empt orphans' problems as well as solve them through the development of a home based carer programme. The programme intends to train 120 home-based care facilitators in HIV/AIDS prevention, basic nursing care, counseling to ease stress, the rights of orphans and people living with HIV/AIDS, legal issues and community mobilization. They in turn will train others and directly reach affected families.

The desperate needs of many orphans were revealed by a Lesotho Red Cross survey in which 79 % of the children reported no community support at all. Only 11 % were being helped with food, less than 3 % with clothes and school fees, and less than 2 % with medical costs. Most important to the children was education. Help to pay school fees topped their list of priorities, ahead of food and clothes. The survey also found half the children that were visited were in poor health. Some 36 % were considered to be in fair health and only 5 % in good health.

The Red Cross integrated community home-based care programme is expected to provide structured support to orphans. The idea is to strengthen community response to the AIDS pandemic. Its implementation is to ease the burden of care under which children suffer when family providers become ill often requiring them to leave school in order to assist at home. It is also hoped that the programme that targets a network reaching 6,000 households, will help protect children from cruelty, food for sex, sex work and other forms of exploitation.

For more information and articles, see www.sahims.net .


The "Southern African Humanitarian Information Network for a coordinated disaster response" website continues to expand. It provides a wealth of knowledge touching on all of the main humanitarian issues affecting southern Africa. It has specialized Southern Africa news "briefcases" which touch on issues such as: HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Genetically Modified Foods, etc. The "briefcases" are updated on a regular basis. SAHIMS has also started a Country Coordination Website, a "turn-key" product delivered to Country Coordination Teams to facilitate humanitarian coordination at the national level. Once installed, the UN Country Team, trained by SAHIMS, maintains it. The first example is the Zimbabwe Relief and Recovery Website, which can be found at: www.sahims.net/zimrelief/


Germany cancels 100% of Zambia's debt:

The German government took a decision to cancel some US$207 million of Zambia's debt, which represents 100% of the debt incurred by Zambia under bilateral agreements made with Germany over the past decade. The decision was taken in line with the Enhanced Debt Relief Initiative launched during the June 1999 G-8 summit in Cologne, Germany. Germany hopes that the freed resources will be channeled to poverty reduction programmes.


The figures are based on the amendments in the Mid Term Review of the Consolidated Appeal

Coordination and support
Economic recovery & infrastructure
Family shelter & non food items
Protection/Human Rights
Water & Sanitation
656,316,139 (100%)

*As reported by UN-OCHA on 14 May 2003. Does not reflect pledges under negotiation.
**As reported by WFP Regional Office


Date Event
5-18 May Southern Africa Regional Interdisciplinary Course on Children's Rights (Harare)
22 May NGO RIACSO partners meeting
27-29 May FAO Round Table Workshop on Mitigation of HIV/AIDS - Impacts through Agriculture and Rural Development
11-12 June RIACSO/IASC Stakeholders meeting (Johannesburg)