Malawi + 4 more

Oxfam International: Southern Africa food deficit crisis Update 7

Situation Report
Originally published
Regional Humanitarian Situation
Southern Africa

The humanitarian food crisis in Southern Africa is a complex interplay of structural neglect, economic isolation, environmental issues, bad governance and social breakdown. Most significantly, HIV/AIDS has come to the fore as leading factor. WFP executive director James Morris, on a tour of the region, emphasized the crisis as one of societal collapse in the wake of the pandemic.

Currently, the World Food Programme (WFP) Southern Africa operation is 65 percent resourced. The situation in the region is expected to worsen as people become increasingly vulnerable. Signs point to continued drought next year in parts of Southern Africa, with lower than expected rainfall for Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia. Much of the region is experiencing rainfall 100-200 mm below normal with Southern Mozambique and most of Zimbabwe worst off.

Delayed (Southern hemisphere) summer rains have already severely reduced projected harvests. Flooding has exacerbated the crisis with the washing away of crops and important transport links in rail and road infrastructure in southern Malawi, north and central Mozambique, and the northern Madagascar.

Country context in brief


Despite 233,000 metric tons (MT) of commercial maize imports being received by the Malawian government in December, only 13,000 MT was of this was sold by January 10, seeming to indicate that most people could not afford it. In addition, donors through World Food Programme (WFP) pledged 208,000 MT of maize to be distributed for free to the most vulnerable people.

The latest Malawi VAC assessment indicates that, despite improvements in national food security, at the household level food security is worsening. The report estimates that around 3.6 million people will require food assistance for the period between December 2002 and March 2003, which is 200,000 more than in the previous round. The report attributes this situation to low purchasing power, the increase in the number of vulnerable households and reduced opportunities for casual work.

Political instability and floods have also posed further challenges in recent months. A proposed constitutional amendment to allow President Bakili Muluzi to run for a third term, led to clashes in Lilongwe and Blantyre.

Floods caused by Cyclone Delfina damaged roads, bridges and railway lines. Districts affected by the floods were Salima, Balaka, Dedza, Machinga, Ntcheu, Dowa and Phalombe. The Department of Disaster Preparedness Relief and Rehabilitation (DDPRR) reported that 50,000 households were affected by the floods washing away crops such as maize, tobacco, rice and other food crops, the main source of livelihood for the majority of Malawians. 3,429 houses were also damaged.


The December VAC assessment estimates that even with 617,727 MT of commitments of food aid and commercial imports, Zimbabwe will have a shortage of some 239,000 MT by March 2003. With the inclusion of displaced farm workers, the estimated population in need has been increased to 7,182 million people. With inflation running at 200%, only 38% of maize farmland planted for the next season, rising political instability and an HIV prevalence rate of 33%, the WFP holds little optimism for the country and expects the humanitarian emergency to spiral further.

Allocations by the state Grain Market Board are erratic and inconsistent; communities and households are struggling to access the grain available due to political and procedural barriers. Basic commodities are not readily available in the formal market and only occasionally available in the parallel market at extremely high prices.

Households resort to a number of income-generating activities, sometimes illegal or damaging to livelihoods. The general population do not benefit from food aid distribution while supplementary feeding for those under 5 is relatively widespread.

The prospect for the next harvest (April/May 2003) is poor due to lack of timely access to agricultural inputs and erratic rainfall patterns. Shortage of maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut and pulse seeds has limited the potential area that could have been planted. The limited quantity of seeds planted has been affected by an unusually prolonged dry spell in the first part of the rainy season. A moderate El Nino is forecasted for the second half of the rainy season, with below normal rains, at the critical productive stage of crops.


The latest Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) report indicates that poor rainfall could see cereal production in Zambia's Southern region decline by at least 60 percent in comparison with the 2000 harvest. Oxfam staff report that indications are the first and second planting of maize will fail in the southern districts.

The WFP Emergency Programme is scheduled for completion at the end of March but Oxfam expects that Shangombo District is likely to require additional aid, as crops are already failing due to lack of rain. The same is expected for Luangwa District in Eastern Province due to the scorching sun and insufficient rains. Senanga harvests are also expected to be poor.

Oxfam's Response

As well as addressing immediate needs, Oxfam's response is intended to achieve long-term solutions to overcoming future food insecurity in Southern Africa.

Its five objectives are:

1. Ensuring adequate access to food to meet immediate needs

2. Supporting communities to enable them to increase food production in the short- and medium - term

3. Improving the capacity of affected communities, partners and local government to respond to the food crisis with diverse strategies

4. Integration of public health measures to maximise and ensure the impact of food interventions.

5. Lobbying and advocacy work at national, regional and global levels, to address causes, and ensure the quality of the humanitarian response to the crisis.

1. Ensuring adequate access to food to meet immediate needs


Oxfam distributed food to 18,664 beneficiaries in TA Nkanda, Mabuka and Juma. The team attended a meeting with Members of Parliament. In three sites distribution was disrupted by rain. Heavy rains in the last two weeks have washed away some roads. Communities in the affected areas are trying to maintain the road before the deliveries. Trucks were stuck at Khwalala for several hours before the community came to assist. Oxfam also recently conducted training with 25 people for warehouse management.


Oxfam distributed maize, oil and sugar beans to more than 11,000 people in Zvishavane district. Oxfam signed a contract for delivery of four months' worth of food to 60,000 people. The food has arrived in South Africa and will be in Zimbabwe in February. Beneficiary numbers for Zvishavane and Chirumanzu district are being finalized along with ration size.

Oxfam reports that its partner Lower GDA completed in December its school feeding programme. The food distribution to families (targeting elderly, widows and AIDS orphans) continued up to the end of December with distribution of 50 kg bags of maize. With the problems of getting maize LGDA decided to procure sugar beans instead. Since 7th January, 4 tons of sugar beans have been distributed to 200 elderly people and 300 orphans.

Oxfam has started a supplementary feeding program for 22,000 children of farmworkers on commercial farms in four provinces (Mashonaland East, West and Central and Manicaland). The programme, which is being implemented by the local partner FCTZ, is being co-funded by the Humanitarian Department of the Foreign Ministry of the German Federal Republic.


Oxfam has transported 7,655 MT of food relief over 9 months to the Nangweshi and Shangombo refugee camps. The arrival of 5 additional trucks has increased carriage capacity. Nutrition survey activities have begun in Monze District and have been completed in Siavonga.

2. Supporting communities to enable them to increase food production in the short and medium term


An attack by army worms in Mulanje and Thyolo and extensively in Phalombe has raised the need to look at less susceptible crops. Oxfam has hired a consultant to look at sweet potato and cassava interventions. The Oxfam team has also provided assistance to general food distribution in analysis of targeting forms and monitoring.


Oxfam has distributed seeds and tools to help 28,000 farmers and their families plant a crop. Post-distribution monitoring has been completed in Chirumenzu and Zvishavane districts. A monitoring exercise is underway in Gutu and Masvingo district.

Working with six partners (Zimbabwe Project Trust, Dabane Trust, Cadec, Christian Care, Motsrud, Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe) Oxfam has distributed 783 MT of seed comprising of sorghum, pearl millet, groundnut, sugar beans, watermelon, pumpkin and maize to farmers.

The two phase Zimbabwe Seeds programme is an effort to improve the farmer and their families' food security. Due to using shorter season varieties, the crops reach maturity faster enabling the planting of seeds twice in one season to increase food security. Overall the proposed intervention aims to benefit 75,000 farmers in 19 districts of Zimbabwe. The total number of beneficiaries will be 400,000 people. Approximately 70% of farmers are women and over 75% of the 400,000 indirect beneficiaries are women.

Planting of seeds for the first phase has been initiated with the rains having recently started in the country. The need for meaningful rainfall is a necessity at this point. Some of the farmers have already planted the seeds and some are in the process of planting for harvest in March. A second round of seeds consisting of 450 MT of seeds has already been ordered for distribution and planting for the second phase.


Oxfam reports that outstanding sorghum, groundnuts, millet and cowpeas have been received. Oxfam also notes that seed distribution is almost completed and discussion on monitoring is underway. More than 30 tones of inputs were distributed to over 2,200 people in 20 distribution points. Analysis of beneficiary registers is ongoing. 5,300 households will benefit from summer and winter cropping support (166 MT seeds); canal drainage and land reclamation; improved monitoring.


Oxfam has initiated a seeds distribution programme in the Caprivi region. The programme is for USD 205,001 and aims to provide 61,220 farmers with seed packs, which will include maize, millet, sorghum and cowpeas or beans for the upcoming planting season (November 2002 - March 2003). The main aim of the programme is to improve the food security of farmers and their families.

3. Improving the capacity of affected communities, partners and local government to respond to the food crisis with diverse strategies


Oxfam has successfully adapted the design of the treadle pump for local conditions. The team has also investigated chemicals products for tackling the armyworm invasion and been quoted on by nine companies for agricultural, water and construction general products.

The group has also investigated and partially collected meteorological and agricultural data. Oxfam has held three farmers meetings in Thyolo to identify problems encountered during the distribution of treadle pumps.


Oxfam with funds from CAW and Steelworkers has started the Multiplication and promotion of improved drought resistant varieties of Sweet Potato & Cassava programme in Magude (Maputo province) and Chibuto (in Gaza province). A local partner, Association of Agriculture and Livestock Technicians, is implementing the project. The aim is to distribute improved varieties of cassava and sweet potato that are increasingly drought resistant, for Magude as a semi arid zone. The program will benefit 16,000 with the distribution of improved cassava varieties, and approx 12,000 with drought resistant Vitamin A rich sweet potato cuttings.

Oxfam launched a veterinary assistance programme in December 2002. The present programme complements the veterinary assistance programme, which began in 2001 and will be implemented by a local partner, National Small Farmers Union (UNAC). It aims to stimulate small-scale livestock breeders to treat their animals through subsidizing the cost of drugs through the pharmacies, and through the veterinary assistance provided by the community agents that were trained. In this way it is expected that the cattle will remain healthy, and reproduction rates will increase. UNAC intends to demonstrate the advantages of proper treatment of livestock, and to influence small-scale breeders to support the expenses involved. The programme will be implemented in the nine districts.

4. Integration of public health measures to maximize and ensure the impact of food interventions


A final report has been completed for the nutrition survey. The Public Health team continues its assessment of health centres for the supplementary feeding programme. Distribution of height boards and kits for health centres have commenced.

Oxfam continued its cholera prevention participatory style training in January in Thyolo, Phalombe and Mulanje. The team carried out capacity building. 15 senior district level staff participated in the training in monitoring of health education activities for health surveillance assistants. The Health Team are working with the water and sanitation team to collecting information relating to the Health Centres to improve water catchment and sanitation and identify water source problems.

Children from the three districts have been asked to participate in a Water and Sanitation poster competition. The winning pictures and slogans will be used for posters and t-shirts to promote public health. The Health Team members are also preparing lists of protective health supplies required by health Centres along with relevant education materials that are needed. Initial findings of the District Public Health Surveys are expected shortly

Oxfam also undertook HIV/ AIDs education with the Luchenza warehouse staff.


An engineer has been hired as a consultant to undertake an inventory of water points. Oxfam partner Mvuramanzi Trust has undertaken some pilot activities with sanitation and training for community maintenance. Building of school ecological toilets is ongoing. Oxfam partners have also been involved in producing the materials for Public health and hygiene education and carrying out health promotion training.


Oxfam has revised an OFDA proposal for the Southern Province project to extend beyond Senanga District to adjacent Shangombo District where food insecurity is anticipated. Community health education training was conducted in Monze, Choma, Siavonga and Mazabuka districts using drama and other creative ways to spread health messages, including the use of child-to-child techniques health education. 26 villages were reached. A T-shirt was produced and distributed to teams during the training sessions with message, 'Safe Water and Hygiene is Life.' Registration is ongoing for distribution of water containers and soap in the project area.

As part of Oxfam's construction of latrines for vulnerable families and provision of sanplat slabs, training of laterine builders has been undertaken including the use of alternative sanplat molding. The activities took consideration of gender, diversity and disability. A total of 180 latrines have been planned and 125 pits dug in 6 villages. 98 sanplats have been cast. Eight latrines for vulnerable families have been completed out of the 20 planned.

Oxfam's activities to repair and rehabilitate hand-dug wells and handpumps continue, with installation of new pumps, deepening of wells, and the fixing of several handpumps. Within the last week alone, 8 boreholes were completed by contractors to Oxfam.

Oxfam also held a two day staff training and planning meeting in Mazabuka and covered communication and mobilization skills, review of SPHERE standards and applicability, child to child techniques, training of trainers, HIV/Aids Mainstreaming, NGO's Code of conduct.


Oxfam will begin train a number of local activists to assist in transmitting messages of safe sex in the communities in which they live.

5. Lobbying and advocacy work at national, regional and global levels, to address causes, and ensure the quality of the humanitarian response to the crisis.


Oxfam's briefing note on "HIV/AIDS and food insecurity in Southern Africa" produced jointly with Save the Children, was used to lobby embassies of both Western and African countries, donor organizations (including DFID, ECHO and USAID-OFDA), the entire UN system, other international NGOs, and regional organizations such as SADC. Oxfam people in the field did the same at country level, and the other Oxfam affiliates also used the paper to lobby and advocate at different levels.

The briefing note caught the attention of a staff member in U.S. Senator Daschle's office and one of its findings was included in recent legislation that has been introduced in the Senate to increase funding for food aid for Sub-Saharan africa along with non-food assistance and for the development of a longer term strategy to address the root causes of the crisis.

In several countries in the region Oxfam developed new advocacy strategies to respond to the humanitarian situation and address its root causes.