Malawi + 4 more

Southern Africa food deficit crisis update 1

Situation Report
Originally published
Although the reasons for the food deficit in Southern Africa are varied and complex, the consistent theme across all affected countries is this year's failure of the rain-fed maize crop. Since this crop is the first source of food for, in particular, small scale subsistence farmers, this years crop failure has severely affected food supplies available to a large section of the population.

The current food crisis is compounded across the region by catastrophic rates of HIV/AIDS which are not only reducing the productive capacity of the countries, but placing intolerable burdens on the social and health structures.

Oxfam's goal in response to the current food deficit, in line with its Regional Strategy, is 'to secure livelihoods by improving access and entitlements to food, diversification of coping strategies and reduction in the incidence of disease among women, children and men.'

Programme Update


The primary cause of the current food deficit in Malawi is the regional phenomenon of cyclical drought, the current phase of which began last year. This, combined with sporadic flooding and other economic factors such as lack of credit for small farmers, has led to approximately 3.2 million people in Malawi seriously affected by food vulnerability.

The current maize shortage, the preferred staple of the vast majority of Malawians, combined with a poor harvest last year which left few carry over stocks, has meant that many people are already reaching a stage of near destitution.

Oxfam GB carried out an integrated Public Health and Public Nutrition assessment in Mulanje, Thyolo and Phalombe districts from 9th to 25th July. Initial findings from Mulanje and Thyolo indicate that food needs are becoming critical and that already people are eating just one meal a day. In response WFP has requested that Oxfam distributes food in Mulanje and Thyolo districts from August.

Oxfam's assessment also revealed a need for water and sanitation interventions in the districts covered. These should take the form of water point construction or rehabilitation, latrine construction, and public health promotion (taking into account the effects of HIV/ AIDS). A Public Health Engineer and Health Adviser will be considering possible interventions for Oxfam.

Distribution of maize and bean seed, sweet potato cuttings and vegetable seed in Mulanje and Thyolo has now been completed through Oxfam's winter cropping programme. This 'extra harvest' will allow households to return to a more sustainable cycle of subsistence farming and provide them with small amounts of food to sell - decreasing their reliance on food aid.

The team has highlighted a general concern that, although an additional 200 trucks have been committed to the region, there are currently still not enough trucks available to cover food transportation needs - and still not enough pledges of food aid from donors.


The main subsistence crop for the majority of the poor rural population of Zambia is maize and this has recorded a shortfall of 630,000MT, leaving 4 million people with insufficient food and 2.3 million in immediate need of food aid.

Harvest Help, one of Oxfam's partners in Zambia, is continuing distribution of seeds and tools in Siavonga, Southern Zambia, through Oxfam's winter cropping programme. However, further irrigation equipment must be distributed if the crop is to be saved from drying up. Pumps and family irrigation kits have been ordered and will be delivered during the week starting 29th August.

Harvest help are a very credible, reliable NGO but, as WFP's main distribution partner in the district, are finding their limited resources are being stretched to capacity. Oxfam programme staff are planning in the short term to camp in Siavonga to offer technical support to Harvest Help and to help to accelerate the pace of winter cropping activities.

An Oxfam Water Engineer is leading one of the teams in a joint vulnerability assessment led by WFP, UNICEF and the Zambian Government, which began on 29th July. Additionally an Oxfam Nutrition Adviser is supporting CARE in carrying out a two- week nutritional assessment in Kazungula and Livingstone districts. Future work is currently being planned by Oxfam for Senanga in the West of the Country.


The crisis in Zimbabwe appears to be more acute and on a larger scale than in other countries in the region. As a result of the displacement of commercial farm workers and a previous greater reliance on commercial crops and diversified economy, access to alternative coping strategies is narrower in Zimbabwe than in neighbouring countries.

Oxfam's pilot food distribution to 11,000 people in Zvishavane will be completed by the end of next week (11th August.) Further distributions are planned for September targeting 110,000 beneficiaries in Zvishavane, Shurugwi and Chirumanzu. This food will be provided initially by Euronaid, and subsequently by WFP once they have sufficient stocks available. Oxfam is also considering extending plans for food distribution to Kweke and Gweru, both in Masvingo Province.

Oxfam also plans to provide public health support in Zvishavane, Shurugwi, Chirumanzu, Masvingo and Chivi, including well deepening and the provision of latrines.

Oxfam's planned twelve-month livelihoods response programme will complement its emergency interventions. This work will include summer cropping, support to livestock, fish farming in community dams, support to community collective gardens, and winter cropping for harvest next September.


The current regional food deficit is affecting parts of Mozambique. The situation in southern provinces is being exacerbated by the fact that food security and livelihoods have not fully recovered in southern provinces of Mozambique. 515,000 people are estimated to be at risk of severe food shortage if food supply is not improved by September.

At this stage it is considered unlikely that Oxfam will be involved directly in food assistance work, though there may be opportunities to assist in delivery, through work in partnership with distributing agencies to lead in community-based work initiatives.

Oxfam GB has undertaken a programme of analysis of the national food deficit, including monitoring of public health and analysis of the impact of HIV/AIDS. Any response by Oxfam GB will be carried out in partnership with Oxfam International affiliates present in the country.


A recent report by the National Early Warning System highlighted the deficit in Namibia's cereal production this year and indicated that the country would have to Import 165,500 MT in order to meet its needs.

Oxfam GB's team in Namibia is gathering further information on the situation across the country, coordinated with Oxfam Canada, in order to decide whether a full assessment is necessary and an Oxfam response would be appropriate.