Malawi + 2 more

Southern Africa: What is the current situation?

Situation Report
Originally published
Southern Africa is facing a looming crisis. Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, in particular, have large national food shortages 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. 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.

Red Cross Response

International Federation of Red Cross / Red Crescent Societies

A Federation team, including two British Red Cross delegates, Richard May and Dan Sanger, carried out a needs assessment in three of the most drought-affected countries in southern Africa, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Following this assessment the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have launched an appeal for 4,681,316 European Euros to provide support to 450,000 people in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe over the next twelve months.

"We expect that the situation will get worse in the coming months. The nutritional status is already very bad for many people particularly young children orphaned because of HIV/AIDS and the high numbers of adults who are infected with the virus," said Dr. Guy Zimmermann, a Federation nutritional expert who was part of the Federation's assessment team.

In Zimbabwe, the operation will focus on two districts, Zaka in Masvingo Province and Gwanda in Matabeleland. In Zambia, the programme will target affected populations in Livingstone, Choma and Siavonga districts in Southern Province. In Malawi, the focus will be on Chikwawa, Nkhotakota and Mchinji districts.

The Red Cross intervention will mainly target HIV/AIDS affected families and orphans, providing bulk food distribution and supplementary feeding at communal kitchens which will be established by Red Cross volunteers in the three countries.

Another focus will be on better food utilization, advocating changes in consumption habits and better nutrition to encourage a more varied diet and less reliance on the maize crop which has been devastated by the present drought. Specific health initiatives will be undertaken to tackle diseases which prove deadly companions to malnutrition including malaria, diarrhoea and HIV/AIDS. Water and sanitation programmes are a traditional strength of the Red Cross across the region and these will be expanded.

The proposed actions involve the distribution of some 7,000 tons of food and seeds, and other relief items, which will build on Red Cross operations already underway. Already this year the Red Cross has assisted in the distribution of 1,600 mts of food in Zambia and plans are in place for the distribution of 4,800 mts in Malawi.

British Red Cross Response

British Red Cross has supported the Federation assessment team, both financially and through the provision of two delegates to the team.