News reports from the kingdom quoted national disaster task team chairman Ben Nsibandze as saying that 297,000 out of a population of 1 million will require food aid to survive.
"This shows an over 80 percent increase from the results of the August/September assessment and if there is no food to come through at the end of March some people will start dying of hunger-related ailments," AFP quoted him as saying.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) stressed, however, that the numbers indicated by Nsibandze were preliminary figures from a draft report on the latest vulnerability assessment conducted in the country.
Reports officer Tessa Rintala told IRIN that "WFP does not acknowledge that figure as yet [297,000] ... as it's not the final figure, they're still working on the [assessment] report".
The last assessment put the number of those in need at 265,000 which was "the official number WFP is working with ... until the release of the final assessment report" due on 15 February, she said.
In its latest situation report, WFP said it had recently dispatched 429 mt of food aid, of which 373 mt was maize, to four of its seven implementing partners operating in Swaziland.
The kingdom is one of six countries facing severe food shortages as a result of drought, failed government policies and the impact of HIV/AIDS. Aid agencies estimate that about 14.4 million people in Southern Africa require food aid until the new harvest in March.
IRIN-SA Tel: +27 11 880-4633 Fax: +27 11 447-5472 Email: IRIN-SA@irin.org.za
[This Item is Delivered to the "Africa-English" Service of the UN's IRIN humanitarian information unit, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. For further information, free subscriptions, or to change your keywords, contact e-mail: IRIN@ocha.unon.org or Web: http://www.irinnews.org . If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Reposting by commercial sites requires written IRIN permission.]
Copyright (c) UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2003