Last month, the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) of the Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) released the results of a May-June food security and nutrition survey of 5,165 households in six provinces affected by drought. The survey found 659,000 "extremely food insecure" people in 40 districts who are unable to maintain the food security of their households without external support. These people require immediate and continued assistance until the next harvest in early 2004. Rather disturbingly, the number of extremely vulnerable people rose in three provinces, particularly Gaza, since the previous VAC survey in November-December, despite the targeted distribution of food aid in the past six months.
The survey also identified 254,779 people in these districts who are "at-risk" of deteriorating food insecurity in the lean season between October and December and who require close monitoring until the next harvest.
MALNUTRITION LEVELSREQUIRE CLOSE SURVEILLANCE.
The previous November-December 2002 survey was carried out during the normal "lean season" whereas the May-June survey was carried out immediately after the first season harvest. Yet, the overall level of global acute malnutrition (GAM) in children 6-59 months old in the affected areas (6.4% overall) did not improve as widely as expected. While some provinces showed improvements, the prevalence of GAM in Tete Province (7.8%) is now particularly worrisome. The high level of malnutrition in women (22.4% in Tete Province) likewise raises concern.
Two or more years of natural disasters, consistently high levels of chronic malnutrition and morbidity (including endemic malaria) and the high HIV prevalence in the worst affected areas pose a serious threat to the welfare of both groups. Recommendations to address the immediate needs of the extremely food insecure population include:
- Immediately distribute free food or
food for work until the next harvest, depending on the profile of the particular
household and the stage in the crop cycle.
- Carry out education programs on good
hygiene, nutrition, and malaria control as well as supplementary feeding
programs for children under five and mothers in the most critical districts.
- Use all efforts to help drought-affected
households prepare for the next planting season.
- Ensure access to basic health care for prevention of severe malnutrition and HIV in young people and children as well as treatment of opportunistic diseases in people affected by HIV/AIDS.