Lesotho + 5 more

Southern African Humanitarian Crisis Update - March 2003

United Nations Regional Inter-Agency Coordination Support Office for the Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa
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.


Destruction by cyclone Japhet remains limited

Cyclone Japhet passed through Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia between 2 - 5 March. The cyclone brought strong winds and heavy rainfall causing damage to infrastructure, housing and agricultural lands. In Mozambique, the INGC (government department for disaster management) reported four deaths, 18 wounded and 23,000 affected. Damage to infrastructure was limited to 8 houses, 25 schoolrooms, one medical unit and the Vilanculos airport. The Inhambane district has been affected the most. The district was already identified as one of the most vulnerable given the devastating effect of drought conditions. All areas affected by the cyclone in Mozambique are provided for through WFP's regional EMOP. In Zimbabwe, the cyclone affected districts in the Eastern and Southern parts of the country causing flash floods, which swept away houses and crops. The CPU (government department for disaster management) reported eight deaths and the destruction of 300 houses. On 7 March, the President declared a state of disaster in Matabeleland South Province in response to the drought. In Zambia heavy rains, as a result of the cyclone, caused damage in the eastern and southern parts of the country. The overall assessment in all three countries however seems to be that damage is relatively limited and at manageable levels.

Heavy rains and floods cause damage in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi

Heavy rains, not related to cyclone Japhet, have caused damage and flooding in Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi. In Zambia, 1,000 people in the Eastern province were displaced, and in the North-West about 15,000 people were marooned. IFRC trucks, 2 for each district, have been dispatched to help minimize delays in food distribution. In Gwembe, Southern province, heavy rains washed away a key bridge, communication equipment and a police post. School feeding and general relief food operations in the district slowed down or halted as roads have become impassable. Preliminary assessments in Gwembe indicate around 1,600 households affected and around 1,200 hectares of crops damaged. On 11 March, the Kafue river in Gwembe district broke its banks causing flooding. The situation seems to be rather serious, but at this stage the extent of the damage is not yet known. The Government's Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) is assessing the situation in Kafue.

In Zimbabwe, flash floods hit Muzarabani and Guruve district in Mashona Central Province, on 25 and 26 February. At least two people were killed, 36,000 affected and 6,000 displaced. The most serious loss was in terms of crops. An area estimated to cover 78 square kilometers has been affected, predominantly planted with maize. Public health implications are potentially serious as both districts are malarial and water and sanitation facilities in the areas are poor. Reports of 'washed away' bridges could not be confirmed although one bridge (Nyarutombo Bridge in Guruve District) has been extensively damaged. The Government's Civil Protection Unit (CPU) is responding to the crisis. In addition, Save the Children (UK), the Zimbabwe Red Cross and WFP responded to the most urgent needs.

Two districts in the Northern Province of Malawi were affected by flooding, with extensive damage to crops and households reported. In Rumphi District, around 3,000 households have been affected. No losses of lives were reported, but it is estimated that about 1,500 hectares of various crops - maize, tobacco, and groundnuts were destroyed. In Mzimba District, about 700 hectares of various crops were damaged and 300 households directly affected. For more information, see the country specific situation reports for Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe on www.reliefweb.org.

Next round of rolling vulnerability assessments to start soon

The next rounds of rolling vulnerability assessments, under the auspices of SADC, will be starting in April. A planning meeting was held in Pretoria between 3rd and 9th March involving all national VACs. The final two days of the meeting also provided an opportunity for external organizations to contribute to the process. SADC welcomed a multi-sectoral approach in the next assessments, but indicated that assistance for this would be needed during the entire process of planning, assessment and analysis to ensure success.

FEWSnet issues emergency alerts for Zimbabwe and Mozambique

FEWSnet issued an emergency alert for Zimbabwe on 24 February. The organization says that maize imports lag behind consumption requirements and supplies on rural markets are erratic, inadequate and expensive. Looking ahead, FEWSnet predicts that the 2002/03 grain harvest could fall as much as 20 percent below last year's low level and 77 percent below the recent 5-year average, leaving a million-ton deficit. On 28 February, the organization issued a food security warning for Mozambique. They explained that a total failure of the staple maize crop has occurred in many areas, and the yields from other crops will be greatly reduced. Food insecurity is most critical in remote areas, where household access to food depends heavily on rain-fed agriculture. In addition, malnutrition rates in these parts of Mozambique are already high due to last year's crop failures. See for more information www.fews.net.

Flexibility introduced in the exchange control regulations in Zimbabwe

Under the newly introduced 'National Economic Revival Programme', people selling foreign currency in Zimbabwe will now be allowed to change their US dollar for Z$824. The measure has been put in place in an attempt to draw more foreign currency to the official market. Currently, most foreign currency is sold on the parallel market, where the value of the US dollar is approximately Z$1400. Critics argue that the new rate of 824 is still not enough to eradicate parallel market activity.

Buying foreign currency is however still regulated under the "official" exchange rate of Z$55/US$1. Through the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Government carries out its foreign transactions at this rate. The new measure effectively means that the RBZ pays for the difference between buying at 824 and selling for 55. It is impossible for individuals or private companies to access foreign currency at the official market as priority is given to government programmes such as importation of maize, fuel and electricity. Most traders therefore remain dependent on the parallel market in sourcing their foreign currency.

The Zimbabwe government recently also introduced an increase in fuel prices of nearly 100% to adjust them closer to international market prices. The price increase will affect prices of goods and services across all sectors and make access to transport more costly. Due to the lack of foreign currency the country has been battling with serious fuel shortages.

Government of Zambia to scale up distribution of Antiretroviral drugs

The government of Zambia is intending to scale up distributions of ARVs. Following two pilot projects, preparations for a nation-wide program have begun. National guidelines on ARV therapy have been developed and 90 medical staff from all nine provinces has been trained. To ensure sustainability, a cost-sharing programme has been drawn up for people living with HIV/AIDS and the Government. The government has completed the tender process for the supply of K12 billion (approximately US$ 2.8 million) worth of ARVs.

In another development, the Defence Forces in Zambia announced that they would recruit only those who have tested HIV negative. Existing staff who are HIV positive will remain in service at a lower level and will receive medical attention as required. For more information see the Zambia situation report on www.reliefweb.org.


1. Food security

WFP achieves record monthly distribution in Zimbabwe

In its largest effort to date, WFP Zimbabwe distributed over 54,500 tons of food to 4.3 million beneficiaries during the month of February, an increase of 20% from the previous month's record total. This was achieved despite delays in the transport of WFP food to 30,000 beneficiaries in Dambakurima and Chadereka (Mashonaland Central Province) due to flooding, which damaged bridges over the Kadzi and Nyarutombo rivers.

WFP receives cash contributions for associated costs

WFP received cash contributions of USD 1 million from Norway and USD 6.5 million from the United Kingdom in support of the associated costs for the South African donation of 100,000Mt of maize. With these contributions, the WFP EMOP 10200 is now more than 76% funded against needs.


HIV/AIDS education at food distribution points in Zambia

A UNICEF Emergency HIV/AIDS Project, linking emergency food distribution with HIV/AIDS communication and community empowerment activities is continuing in drought-affected areas in Southern Province, in collaboration with WFP, UNFPA, and NGO partners.

In December 2002, some 200 drama performers were trained on basic facts on HIV/AIDS as well as participatory approaches to theatre. Since then, 54 participatory drama performances have been conducted at emergency food distribution points in rural areas. The project seeks to target 714 food distribution points, each reaching about 1,500 vulnerable persons.

Through collaborative efforts between UNICEF, WFP and UNFPA a mobile video-truck intervention, which aims to increase community awareness as well as communities' access to condoms, is to commence operations soon. For more information see the Zambia situation report on www.reliefweb.org.

WHO/FAO release "Living Well with HIV/AIDS" manual

SAFM's "Pathways to Health" presenter Monica Fairall, will be discussing the Nutritional aspects of living with HIV/AIDS with WHO Nutritionist in Zambia, Ms Chantal Gegout, on Monday 17th March. The program is broadcast at 8pm on FM, 104-207 frequency, for those in range. A transcript of the interview will appear on the SAFM website a few days thereafter (www.safm.co.za).

3. Health

Nutrition information project for southern Africa

Starting on 9 March and running until early April, UNICEF is embarking upon a nutrition information project for southern Africa, using the expertise of a technical research team from Tulane University in New Orleans. The team, working out of UNICEF's Regional Office in Nairobi, will be reviewing the methodology, approach and quality of the primary data collected through the nutritional surveys conducted in all six affected countries. Their objective is to improve the understanding of the nutritional status and trends in the areas covered by the surveys. UNICEF is planning to present the findings of the study to all stakeholders on 4 April in Johannesburg.

The fieldwork for the national nutrition survey in Zimbabwe has recently ended. Data was collected in 61 districts and preliminary results are expected in March.

Strategic framework for reproductive health services

UNFPA reported that due to increased poverty in the six affected countries as a result of the crisis, a decrease in the number of women seeking antenatal care and family planning services has been reported. The number of home deliveries is on the rise, as women forced to dedicate themselves to securing food for their families neglect their own health.

UNFPA recently developed its Strategic Framework for Humanitarian Response for the region, focusing on reproductive health. They are proposing an advocacy strategy aimed at the promotion of condoms as dual strategy against STD/HIV/AIDS and unintended pregnancies; averting maternal deaths through provision of essential and emergency obstetric services; prevention and management of Gender Based Violence (GBV); and generation of relevant population and reproductive health data for humanitarian responses.

As per 10 March, UNFPA joined the Regional Inter Agency Coordination Support Office in Johannesburg.

Cholera outbreak in Malawi

In Malawi, the Ministry of Health received reports of a cholera epidemic in Dowa district. The Madisi hospital in the area reported that on 1 March, 90 cholera cases had been reported over a 48-hour period. The cause of the outbreak was traced to contaminated water pumped from a shallow well to water tanks that supplied the hospital, an orphanage and the nearby Ntanira village. UNICEF provided two hospital tents and 250kg of water treatment chemicals (HTH) and brought in ORS and Ringer's Lactate from the neighbouring district of Kasungu where the supplies had been pre-positioned. On-site technical advice on case management was also provided. The pumping of the contaminated water was stopped and the community has been sensitized not the drink water from unsafe sources. No deaths have been reported and cases are decreasing in number.

4. Social services

HIV/AIDS education

UNICEF Zimbabwe found that due to the stigma and taboo associated with the real causes of HIV/AIDS, some teachers use faulty reasoning to explain to their students the causes of the pandemic, as is proven by the "causes of HIV/AIDS" written on the black board of a Zimbabwe secondary school: razor blades, needles, scissors, toothbrush and blood transfusion. Teachers who themselves are infected with the virus will tend not to be open about teaching it in class. Often, there are no books or other teaching materials to accurately explain the causes of AIDS. Other teachers are simply too embarrassed to talk about sex.

As Zimbabwe has the third highest HIV-infection rate in the world at 33.7%, UNICEF, together with the Ministry of Education, Sport, and Culture (MoESC) have made HIV/AIDS education a top priority in the battle against the pandemic. Through an initiative called the HIV/AIDS and Life-Skills Programme, UNICEF along with the MoESC has designed syllabi for primary and secondary schools, integrating themes involving HIV/AIDS and life-skills. Books used as part of the course give facts on HIV/AIDS, participatory methods and daily life-skills guidance. As part of this initiative, schools throughout the country are required to teach at least one class on HIV/AIDS per week.

In addition to designing new syllabi, UNICEF realizes that books alone cannot implement the change needed to prevent students from engaging in risky behavior. Recognizing that teachers themselves are often affected by the pandemic, UNICEF in coordination with the MoESC are actively designing a "psycho-social support for teachers" so that they may be able to effectively teach students the impact of HIV/AIDS.


Commemoration of International Women's Day

At the core of the southern African crisis is the deadly combination of food insecurity and HIV/AIDS. "Women are on the frontline of this pandemic, and that is why we are drawing attention to their plight on this International Women's Day," said James Morris, the Secretary General's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa.

Women are more vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS than men; in sub-Saharan Africa, where eight out of ten farmers are women, they account for 60 percent of the infected, with even higher rates for females aged from15-24. A woman living with HIV faces many challenges: her access to health services, care, counseling and information is likely to be severely limited. Equally restricted are her options to feed and care for herself and her family.

UN Agencies and country teams in the region have taken up the enormous challenge posed by the disease, with a special emphasis on women's needs. They helped commemorate International Women's Day in unique and country specific ways.

In Swaziland, over 2,000 women from rural communities, especially those worst affected by drought, participated in the commemoration of International Women's Day. Activities included speeches from Community Based Organizations; drama performances on women empowerment and HIV/AIDS; and showcasing of indigenous African dishes. UNICEF donated drama and story telling on HIV and AIDS, sexual abuse, and women empowerment issues. FAO gave 120 bean and cowpeas seed kits to Umtapo, a local NGO, to establish nurseries for seed multiplication and assist women groups to distribute the produce at community level.

In Zambia, Government, UN agencies, and civil society started the celebration of International Women's Day with a national march in the capital and all Provincial centers. On 7 March, the UN Country Team presented seven Zambians -five women and two men - with awards in recognition of their efforts to promote women's empowerment in Zambia. Two of the women were instrumental in establishing and managing home based care programs in their communities; one of the women has established the well regarded Bwafano community support and self-help program for orphans and their caregivers; one young woman publishes a young peoples' magazine which actively promotes gender equality; and one, a traditional leader, worked tirelessly to change his community's attitudes to gender roles.

The theme of International Women's Day in Lesotho, spearheaded by the Government, was "Empower Women to Fight HIV/AIDS". This topic will be highlighted throughout the month of March via a number of activities, ending in a special celebration on 27 March. The Government of Lesotho has been very active both on HIV/AIDS and gender issues. It declared the fight against HIV/AIDS as a national priority and launched a number of activities around the country, such as: sensitization workshops with parliamentarians on "Adolescent Girls and Reproductive Health"; radio broadcast messages from the Minister of Gender, Youth and Sports; and HIV/AIDS sensitization and condom distribution projects among young female factory workers in the industrial areas in the capital Maseru.

In Mozambique commemorations will take place on 7 April, which has been marked as the National Woman's Day for the country.

At regional level, UNFPA supports the African Women Ministers and Parliamentarians Network. The Network is active in pressing Governments to ratify the stipulations of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). It also advocates for increased participation of women in politics and greater representation of women in parliament and decision making bodies. UNFPA further supports the review of national legislation in favour of gender equality, women's rights and prevention of gender-based violence. UNFPA supports the formulation of Gender Policy in several countries in the sub-region, among which Zimbabwe, Zambia and Lesotho are in an advanced stage of implementation.

Finally, staff of WFP's Operational Division Johannesburg (ODJ) has been selected to receive an award for "Agency staff and partners who have helped reduce the impact of the pandemic through food aid". As the lead agency in the UN response to the Southern Africa humanitarian crisis and through the WFP Executive Director's role as Special Envoy for this response, WFP has been a driving force behind putting HIV/AIDS firmly on the humanitarian agenda in the region.



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

Kindly note that some of the agencies are undergoing budget revisions. This might cause the appeal requirements or recorded contributions to change.

Coordination and support
Economic recovery & infrastructure
Family shelter & non food items
Protection/Human Rights
Water & Sanitation
652,430,782 (100%)
417,130,139 (64%)

*As reported by UN-OCHA on 11 March 2003. Does not reflect pledges under negotiation.

**As reported by WFP Regional Office


Date Event
13-14 March UNAIDS Regional Meeting in Nairobi
17 March Radio broadcast of WHO/FAO "Living Well with HIV/AIDS" manual
20 March (TBC) RIACSO stakeholders meeting
8 to 23 March Joint visit of the members of UNICEF, UNDP/UNFPA and WFP Boards in Mozambique
26 March (TBC) Mission of UNDP Administrator, Mark Malloch Brown, to South Africa
27 March Closing celebration of Women's Day in Lesotho
3 April (TBC) UNICEF debriefing for stakeholders on nutritional data analysis project