Tackle African famine now to avoid disaster

Report
from Save the Children
Published on 06 Jun 2002
Save the Children UK (SCUK) is calling on delegates at this week's meeting convened by the UN on the Southern Africa food crisis to come up with a clear and realistic plan on how to prevent a tragedy on a massive scale.
At the meeting on 6-7 June in Johannesburg, South Africa, all the main actors including the UN, aid agencies, donors and regional governments are expected to agree about the scale of the problem. The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that at least 12.7 million people already need urgent food aid while SCUK and other relief agencies predict that at least 19 million people will ultimately be effected by the crisis (see Notes to Editors).

SCUK Regional Director for Southern Africa, Deborah Crowe, said:

"Now that the international community is at last seized of the scale of the impending crisis it is critical that the plans it lays to avert a potential tragedy are clear and realistic."

Sourcing, delivering and distributing the estimated four million tonnes of food required represents a massive challenge. The WFP has suggested in its initial reports on the crisis that governments and commercial importers in the effected countries could meet half the total needs identified. The recent records of the commercial and governmental sectors suggest this is at best optimistic and delivery against these targets should therefore be carefully monitored and contingency plans put in place.

Ms Crowe said:

"Many of the 19 million people threatened by this mounting famine will get no second chance if the plans laid in Johannesburg fail."

In addition to flooding and drought over the past two years, a complex mix of political and economic factors have also added to the crisis. In Malawi, the liberalisation of the grain market has been poorly managed and in Zimbabwe pressures on commercial farmers have substantially reduced crop yields.

Notes to editors:

* At the meeting today, the WFP revised upwards the number of people it believes require immediate food aid from at least 10 million to 12.7 million, a figure which does not include those in need in Angola.

* Save the Children and other aid agencies estimate that 19 million people, including more than four million in Angola, will suffer food shortages beyond those they might experience in a normal year.

* A conservative WFP estimate - again excluding Angola - is that four million metric tonnes of food is required to meet the needs of the 10 million people it originally estimated to be at risk.

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