Lesotho + 5 more

USAID response to the food security crisis in southern Africa

News and Press Release
Originally published
WASHINGTON - It is estimated that up to 12.8 million people in six southern African countries - Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe - will be in need of humanitarian food aid between now and next year's March harvest. A four million metric ton cereal deficit is predicted for the six affected countries through March 2003. One third of this is the humanitarian food requirement. The remaining amount is expected to be provided by government programs, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

Having delivered or pledged more than 290,000 metric tons of food aid since the beginning of 2002, and with plans to provide another 190,000 metric tons of food very soon, at a total value of more than $230 million, the United States government is the largest donor to the World Food Program's operations in southern Africa. This contribution represents half of the humanitarian food requirement through December 2002.

The severity of the food shortage and the factors contributing to it are many and vary from country to country. Among the principal factors are drought, floods, poor harvests, and depletion of strategic grain reserves. In some cases poor policies and economic mismanagement have also contributed to the food shortage, threatening to worsen existing conditions as well as affect future agricultural production. The ability of the commercial sector to import large quantities of food in the coming months will be essential to stave off famine.

In addition, the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa leaves large portions of the population increasingly vulnerable to health problems associated with food shortages, and also exacerbates the effects of the drought because households have fewer capable members to produce food or generate income with which to buy food.

Given the enormity of the need, however, the United States is urging other donors to assist in meeting southern Africa's humanitarian food requirements.

USAID has monitored the food shortage in southern Africa since December 2001 and began providing food to the region in February 2002.


USAID Press Office
(202) 712-4320

USAID is the government agency providing U.S. economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for more than 40 years.