Malawi + 2 more

Southern Africa: Food insecurity appeal No. 12/02

The Situation

Southern Africa is facing a looming crisis. Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, in particular, have large national food deficits as a result of two years of poor harvests due to erratic rainfall and a range of economic factors. On top of this, the maize harvest for this year is likely to be poor in all three countries and stocks of maize grain, the staple diet, are liable to become scarce very quickly. Food shortages and rampant inflation are already a problem. Populations in the worst affected areas in the three countries, whose coping strategies have been undermined by several years of poor harvests, are surviving on a considerably reduced food intake and some emergency relief. Their situation will get worse in the months ahead.

This is a complex emergency that has its origins in a range of factors that reinforce and compound each other. While natural phenomena, both flooding and dry spells, have had a key influence on the present crisis, there are other underlying causes that have had a major impact on food availability and production levels within each country. These include government policies, the role of parastatals that control the trade in grain, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and its effect on production capacity and the under-utilization of inputs and appropriate agricultural techniques. This destructive mix of factors captures many communities and reinforces their vulnerability and weak capacity to break out of the poverty trap. Responses to this crisis have to be designed so that they do not increase dependency but, in an imaginative way, enable communities to start the long climb to a healthier and more food secure environment. A Federation team carried out an assessment between 6-30 April in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and concluded that this is a complex and multi-faceted crisis that has some national and sub-regional differences. However, there are enough common themes and needs to justify a response on a regional basis, coordinating with UN partners and other operational agencies. The assessment proposed that Red Cross become involved immediately through interventions in districts in the affected areas in all three countries where the National Societies have strong capacity and effective track records. This response will address immediate needs where necessary, but the main thrust of the programme will focus on building capacities so that communities are better able to look after themselves in future in times of crisis.

The food situation in Mozambique is also preoccupying. A separate assessment is underway, in collaboration with the Mozambique Red Cross, and based on the preliminary results the Federation may decide to launch a separate appeal to assist the affected population in Mozambique.

The main findings of the assessment are:

- Although it is too early to be accurate about the present harvest production levels, there is clear evidence of a deficit in maize grain at national level in all three countries. These deficits have been estimated at 1.2 to 1.5 million MT in Zimbabwe, up to 600,000 MT in Malawi, and between 550,000 to 720,000 MT in Zambia for the coming marketing period (2002-2003). Reserve stocks in the three countries are very low or non-existent. Harvests for this crop season are likely to be poor overall, with a complete loss in some areas. Estimates are that maize production as an average of the last five years will be between 25% and 40% in Zimbabwe, 55 to 80% in Zambia and 75 to 85% in Malawi. Food prices have increased dramatically over recent months. For instance in Zimbabwe, the price of one kilo of maize grain has gone up by 500% since September 2001. Food availability has become a problem spreading vulnerability among sections of the population that have purchasing power and might otherwise have not been affected. Shortfalls will have to made up with imports.

- Governments have set in motion mechanisms for importing some of the food shortfall. However, their capacity is severely limited by a lack of foreign currency and the way that trade is managed through the parastatal marketing boards. The Malawi Government has declared a national emergency and has ordered 150,000 MT of food, of which 90,000 MT has arrived. The Zambian Government has imported 6,500 MT of food in the first quarter of this year. The Zimbabwean Government imported 80,000 MT of food in the first quarter of 2002 and has put in an order for an additional 200,000 MT.

- In the region, South Africa is likely to have surplus stocks of 1.3 million MT maize grain for the coming marketing year while the import requirements for the SADC region excluding South Africa may be as high as 3.5 million MT. There appear to be major transport constraints of sourcing commodities through South Africa and other sources and transport routes such as through Beira and Dar es Salaam will need to be investigated.

- The donor response has generally been slow for a number of reasons including political disagreements with governments. The WFP appeal in Zimbabwe issued in November 2001 for 60 million USD has only received 30% support. In Zambia, WFP has imported 4,000 MT in the first quarter of this year. In Malawi, USAID through its Food for Peace Programme has indicated that it will import 80,000 MT of grain into the country starting October 2002. A regional FAO/WFP assessment is being carried out between mid-April and the end of May. This is meant to provide the starting point for more detailed, national and regional food security analyses and for reaching consensus among partners on required humanitarian action in the region. WFP is in the process of implementing an emergency operation, which runs until January 2003.

- This is a complex emergency that has its origins in a range of factors that reinforce and compound each other. These causes include the following: inadequate harvests over the last two years due to poor weather conditions; economic difficulties particularly in Zimbabwe which impact on households' coping strategies: government policies and the political-economic environment; the role of the parastatals that control, to a greater or lesser extent, the sale, purchase and import of grain; the scarcity of foreign currency and logistical problems in importing commodities; and the effect of the HIV/AIDS pandemic which seriously undermines production capacity.

- A complex picture emerges from the country assessment teams. Particular regions within each country are more affected than others. In many cases, these match with the chronic food vulnerability areas. In Zimbabwe, the south, west and extreme north: in Zambia, a corridor in the south from Livingstone to Siavonga districts; in Malawi, the Southern Region and parts of the Central Region have been the worst affected. Within these regions, however, the variation is considerable and reflects a complex interplay of forces and capacities affecting individual and community vulnerability. The Red Cross response will be focused in these most affected areas. These will be in Masvingo and Matabeleland South in Zimbabwe, Livingstone, Choma and Siavonga in Zambia and Chikwawa, Mchinji and Nkhotakota in Malawi and targeting 120,000 in each country.

- This is a slow onset disaster, which has its origins in the partial failure of two previous harvests as a result of erratic rainfall leading to flooding and dry spells and general chronic food insecurity This has produced an increase in vulnerability and depletion of assets. In some areas such as Zaka in Masvingo Province in Zimbabwe and Mulanje in Malawi, the impact is being felt now with households only eating one meal a day. In other areas such as in Choma in Zambia stocks will last until August or September. What is clear is that, although, the general situation in affected areas may not be acute at this stage, it is likely to get much worse once stocks from this inadequate harvest run out. The period for this will vary between regions and areas but will occur in the next few months. The Red Cross will monitor the situation and respond in an appropriate manner.

- The lack of inputs, particularly, hybrid seeds and fertilizer and, in some places, the use of inappropriate agricultural techniques has also reduced productivity. Maize, which is the staple diet in all three countries, is less drought resistant and, indeed, less nutritious than other crops such as sorghum and millet. In Malawi, these crops along with groundnuts and cash crops such as tobacco and cotton have fared much better this season than maize. Irrigation or simple water harvesting techniques are not widely used, producing an impact on production levels. Interventions around improving agricultural techniques, crop diversification and change in consumption habits are recommended.

- The high incidence of HIV/AIDS in the region has been a major contributor in increasing poverty. There has been a decline in the amount of land that is cultivated due to a reduction in labour and there is evidence of poor crop management and a decline in productivity amongst households who have been affected by HIV/AIDS. The social and economic burden to communities of looking after orphans or the elderly is enormous and will increase. The Red Cross response should recognize this particular pattern of vulnerability and explore ways of building the capacity of communities to deal with it.

The assessment team recommended the following Red Cross responses:

- National Societies are already involved or will become involved in targeted bulk food distributions. In Zambia, an intervention has been run from the end of 2001 in which 1.6 thousand MT of food has been distributed in the Luapula, Northern and North Western districts. The Malawian Red Cross will distribute 4.8 thousand metric tons through the support of the American Red Cross and the USAID Food for Peace Programme. National Societies will have a specific role in working in partnership with WFP and others in implementing targeted distributions. The Red Cross has not been involved in food operations in Zimbabwe because it may not be possible to undertake distributions according to Red Cross principles and political constraints.

- The assessment, however, recommends that National Societies use this opportunity to build on their expertise and experience in three programme areas: agriculture/water and sanitation; health and nutrition; HIV/AIDS so as to address both immediate and medium/long term needs.

- A major component of the intervention will be built around improving production capacity through more efficient or effective utilization of resources so that communities become more food secure in the medium and long term. The Red Cross, through hired short-term technical staff working closely with government extension services, will play a significant role in educating farmers about irrigation and water harvesting techniques, conservation tillage and green mulching practices as well as winter cropping. Using a food or cash for training and work approach (depending on the local availability of food) during the emergency period, farmers will work on their own land up to the planting season in November 2002 using some the techniques and practices outlined above. Their emergency needs will be addressed through the distribution of food or cash and they will build and strengthen their own assets and resources making them less food insecure in the future.

- The second main area of the programme will focus on improving the health and nutritional status of people and communities in the same areas as those targeted above. There is clear evidence of poor diet and consumption habits as well as disease resulting from inadequate nutrition, especially among under-fives. Changes in eating habits will improve nutritional status. Red Cross branch staff and volunteers will work closely with government structures and personnel in demonstrating improved food preparation (based on a greater variety of crop types), encouraging a more effective utilization of food. Supplementary feeding programmes for vulnerable groups will be carried out, particularly for under-fives where nutritional status has declined considerably.

- The emergency programme will build on the structures and activities already in place to target the most vulnerable, of whom HIV/AIDS-affected families are some of the most severely hit. All three countries run HIV/AIDS programmes in the areas that this emergency programme will operate and, therefore the Red Cross will be in a position to use this target group as an entry into affected communities, building their and the community's capacity to deal with the food security.

- Careful monitoring of the food security situation will be carried out at a regional, national and district level throughout the period of the operation. If the situation worsens considerably, then the Red Cross response will be scaled-up. A potential scenario such as the movement of people across borders, for example, would need a considerably higher level of response.

The Needs

On the basis of the findings of the Federation assessment the food security situation outlined above can be described as 'chronic to acute' in the countries and areas visited. Nutritional surveys carried out by other agencies point to a general deterioration in the status of the people in the most affected areas. For instance, global acute malnutrition rate in Zaka, Masvingo in Zimbabwe is 10.5% and 7.2% in Thyolo in Malawi.

Food insecurity can be identified at three levels:

  • lack of availability of sufficient maize grain.
  • reduced access to food for vulnerable groups.
  • Problems related to utilization of food

The poor health of large parts of the population is a function of the impact of these three levels. The Federation will address this through meeting emergency needs as well as addressing the structural causes of the resulting vulnerability. Organizational development of the National Societies and their branches will also be key in building long term capacity of the communities which they serve.

The Proposed Operation

Objectives and Activities planned

The main objective of the operation is to improve the immediate and medium/long term food security of vulnerable communities in targeted areas in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe by improving availability, access to and utilization of food through improvements to agriculture capacity, health and nutritional status. The period of the operation will be for 12 months.

The interventions will reach a total of 450,000 beneficiaries -- approximately 150,000 people (or 25,000) households in each of the three countries. In Zimbabwe, the operation will focus on two districts, Zaka in Masvingo Province and Gwanda in Matabeleland South. In Zambia, the programme will deal with the most affected populations in Livingstone, Choma and Siavonga districts in Southern Province. In Malawi, the focus of attention will be on Chikwawa, Nkhotakota and Mchinji districts. These areas have been selected because of the fit between National Society capacity and vulnerability of the populations.

National Societies with support from the Federation will finalize each national plan based on the four objectives and activities outlined below.


Objective 1: Supplementary Feeding To improve the health and nutritional status of the most vulnerable population through targeted supplementary feeding programmes (approximately 90,000 for the three countries for a period of 8 months from August to April).

The focus of the operation will initially be on HIV/AIDS-affected families and orphans. Nutritional surveys will be carried out in the districts as outlined above. These will be conducted in affected areas after consultation with local authorities and agencies. They will form the basis of the Red Cross intervention which will be targeted at children under five who form 15% to 20% of the total population. Other vulnerable groups may be included in the distributions depending on the scale of vulnerability. Some nutritional surveys have already been carried out, especially in Malawi, and the Red Cross will not duplicate these. In such areas, it is possible that the interventions will be able to start earlier.

Food in the form of Unimix, Famix or CSB can be sourced locally and will be transported to the areas using commercial or Red Cross trucks where possible. Targeting and registration will be undertaken through the Red Cross branch and volunteers will be utilized for the distributions. Where possible, these are likely to be undertaken through local schools or clinics where the food can be cooked and distributed.

This will be a flexible response that may vary from country to country depending on local food security conditions and the need to meet the basic food requirements of communitas. Further data collection and analysis will be conducted to map out the most appropriate response that meets local needs. It may be necessary to undertake bulk food distributions if the situation worsens, working in collaboration with UN partners and other agencies. The operation will be carried out between August 2002 and April 2003, when the next harvest is expected. Mid-term nutritional surveys will be carried out in January 2003, with end surveys in April 2003.

Objective 2: Health and Nutrition To improve the medium and long term health and nutritional status of affected communities through advocating changes in consumption habits and better nutritional practices as well as undertaking other community based health activities (25,000 households per country).

The main results of this intervention will be better utilization of food, which will lead to reduction in the levels of malnutrition, and a decrease in morbidity particularly attached to diarrhoea and water borne diseases, and malaria. HIV/AIDS affected families will be targeted as being some of the most vulnerable. By the end of the operation, the community will be more aware of the value of a more varied diet and the utilization of different foods. This intervention will fit closely with objective 3 below which will lessen dependence on maize, and promote crop diversification.

Some 30 Red Cross staff and volunteers in each country will be trained in information, education and communication techniques, particularly, in the areas of food utilization and disease prevention. They will be used to carry out a base-line survey and train community volunteers using local entries into the community such as women's groups. A number of activities will be carried out with the communities through these volunteers such as: nutrition - promotion of vegetable gardens, promotion on use of health and immunization cards, education on food handling, processing and storage, training in a balanced diet for children, and the promotion of breast feeding; malaria - vector protection and elimination, promotion and distribution of impregnated mosquito nets, reduction in breeding sites; diarrhoea - provision of safe water containers, hygiene promotion, training in provision of ORS, building up of Red Cross response to diarrhoeal and cholera epidemics; HIV/AIDS - education, home based care with a food element, nutritional education, and promotion of access to condoms.

These activities follow the Federation Community Base First Aid (CBFA) and the African Red Cross Health Initiative (ARCHI) approach utilizing volunteers and empowering communities to make improvements in their health.


Objective 3: Agriculture To improve access and availability of food through improved community based agricultural production in liaison with existing government agencies and structures.

The aim of this intervention is to increase production levels and secure greater food security for farmer households through the introduction of more appropriate agricultural techniques and water harvesting practices as well as crop diversification. The strategies for this will be to work closely with the national Ministry of Agriculture and agriculture extension officers on the ground through locally recruited Red Cross agricultural technicians to conduct training and practical exercizes with farmers. A food for training approach will be utilized and cash/food for work will be used, if warranted.

The main activities will be to recruit 2 agricultural technicians for each country. In co-operation with existing partners, strategies and work-plans will be developed with an emphasis on the introduction of new agricultural techniques, crop diversification, water conservation and irrigation and community sensitization. This would be followed by the recruitment and training of volunteers and communities in the appropriate techniques. Seeds, fertilizer, and tools will be provided for demonstrations.

Objective 4: Water and Sanitation To improve the availability of safe water and sanitation to complement community based health activities

Safe water and sanitation are significant factors in enabling communities to live healthier and more food secure lives. The programme will identify trained national society staff and consultants and conduct training of volunteers within the community. Branches will liaise closely with local authorities and other agencies in a thorough needs assessment and the design of a work plan to address these needs. Water point committees will be identified and strengthened or established and trained. Red Cross staff will undertake a sensitization of the community in health hygiene promotion and water point and latrine maintenance. New water points and sanitation facilities will be rehabilitated or constructed.

Objective 5: To strengthen the Red Cross presence in rural areas by strengthening existing rural branches or developing new Red Cross antenna's in rural areas. Volunteers in rural branches will be involved in ARCHI 2010/CBFA and food surveillance activities (see below)

Activities will consist of:

  • introducing a simple food production monitoring system (time of planting, surface of planted area, and rainfall at critical moments). Branches will regularly check and report on indicators that will help the National Societies to predict deficits well in advance of the harvest time to allow them to start assessing needs, identifying potential beneficiaries and contact WP or other donors in view of a timely response.

  • quarterly analysis of the above mentioned reports will be done by a food security coordinator at the national society headquarters-level who will keep the regional delegation informed by providing a copy of the analysis to allow a timely contact with donors in case a larger scale response is required.

National Society Capacity Building

This programme is an opportunity for the three national societies to build capacity both at headquarters and in the branches. This will be a major intervention in each country and will require the national societies to build on their present capacity and develop new skills. Mobilization and training of volunteers will be a major component of the programme and will develop closer ties between the branches and the communities they serve. One of the primary outputs of this operation will be increased capacity of Red Cross to continue to monitor the situation at household level as an early warning mechanism for future food security.


Effective co-ordination will play a critical part in mounting an appropriate and efficient response to this crisis. The programme co-ordinator and the individual national society co-ordinators will liaise closely with UN partners and counterparts, other NGO's, and Government authorities to ensure that efforts are maximized and to limit the duplication of activities. They will attend appropriate meetings and maintain close relations with other actors. Sharing and pooling of information is important in this situation.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The programme will be co-ordinated through a delegate programme co-ordinator at the regional level who will manage the programmes in the three countries and visit the programme areas on a regular basis, with a particular emphasis on Zimbabwe. There will be an additional delegate placed either in Zambia or Malawi to assist in support for these two countries. Programmes will be managed in the three countries by national society co-ordinators who may either be staff at the headquarters or staff recruited for this programme. The co-ordinators will be employed full time on this programme.

In the targeted areas, field officers will be responsible for specific projects in their districts. Implementation at the field level will be achieved through trained volunteers in the community working closely with existing partners supported with expertise from agriculture departments. Existing Red Cross branches will be the focal point for administration and monitoring in the field with capacity building and establishment of new branches being an integral component of the operation.

Monitoring will be continuous throughout the operation, with a particular emphasis on immediate needs in the early stages. The food security situation may deteriorate rapidly in the first few months with the need to re-focus and adjust interventions, if necessary. Monitoring will be done through monthly reports that will be the responsibility of the national society co-ordinators. A regional food security committee consisting of regional delegation and national society representatives will pay quarterly visits to the programme areas for monitoring purposes. An agronomist consultant will visit the region to monitor the progress of the agricultural intervention. A final evaluation will be carried out by an external evaluator.

Capacity of the National Societies


The Zimbabwe Red Cross has 153 branches and over 30,000 volunteers nationally, with programmes in disaster preparedness and response as well as community based health. It runs a major programme in HIV/AIDS prevention and control and home based care.

Zimcross has well trained staff and volunteers in disaster management in all eight provinces. Six staff have been trained in the regional response training and one in the Federation's Field Assessment and Co-ordination Team training. Currently a programme is in progress to train 2,400 action team members in all the districts. In terms of material and logistics resources the society maintains a fleet of 20 vehicles which include 4x4 pickups, double cab pickups, a lorry, motorbikes and bicycles. There is a good communication network, computers, telephones, and VHF radios in all provinces. A central warehouse is located at headquarters.


The Malawi Red Cross Society has 27 branches, one for each of the country's districts, a total of 30,000 volunteers, and 450 disaster response action team members. The national society has a well defined structure with a staff complement of 81. It has a fleet of 2 trucks, 7 vehicles, 3 motor cycles as well as VHF radios. The National Society has a large warehouse in Blantyre.

The National Society has acquired considerable experience in disaster preparedness and response with operations over the last ten years assisting Mozambiquan refugees and victims of civil unrest and drought. It also runs an effective HIV/AIDS programme which focuses on prevention, education, health, and the provision of condoms. It also runs Watsan activities and constructed 300 wells in the mid 90s after the drought.


The Zambian Red Cross Society has a nationwide network with 57 branches around the country, with active branches in the proposed operational areas of Livingstone and Choma where water and sanitation and HIV/AIDS programmes are being implemented. The national society also has considerable experience in emergency relief with programmes in refugee assistance and relief food distributions, in collaboration with the WFP and the Government.

There are a total of 10,000 volunteers around the country, with a total of 30 full time staff responsible for programme planning, implementation and management at headquarters (six of whom have been trained to be members of regional disaster response teams and one has been trained in the Federation's Field Assessment Co-ordination Team training). A major constraint for the national society is in logistics with only a few operational vehicles at headquarter level. However, communications are effective with VHF radios in over 30 branches.

Present Capacity of the Federation

The Federation maintains a regional delegation in Harare with 14 delegates providing expertise in disaster preparedness, response, food security and health. The programme co-ordinator will operate from the Regional Delegation. The Federation also has a finance delegate based in Lusaka.

Budget summary

See Annex 1 for details.

For further details please contact: Richard Hunlede; Federation Desk Officer, Phone: 41