About 1.2 million Zambians need food assistance

LUSAKA, Jun 17, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) - An estimated 1.2 million Zambians require food assistance for the next eight months following a partial drought experienced during the last farming season, a senior government official said here Friday.

"I would like to make an earnest appeal to our cooperating partners to supplement government's efforts by intervening in order to mitigate the effects of the drought," Vice President Lupando Mwape said during the launch of a survey conducted by the National Vulnerability Assessment Committee (NVAC), a consortium of the United Nations and non-governmental organization agencies, to determine how many people require food aid.

The vice president said the government would require 118,335 tons of cereal for the next eight months to feed the affected people who are food insecure.

The results of the survey show that erratic rainfall experienced in the last season impacted negatively on the overall production of the main cash crops while the extended dry spells had a telling effect on the livelihoods of households in rural areas.

The vice president said the food deficit has affected other sectors of life, noting that in education, 13 percent of the school going children dropped out, while high malnutrition among children below the age of five were recorded.

The vice president has since appealed to donors to help government find permanent solutions to recurrent droughts through integrated water management schemes such as simple irrigation technics.

The survey, covering 1,690 households, was carried out in 27 districts with 21 of these being in the rural areas of the Southern half of the country that are more prone to droughts.

Zambia is among some Southern African countries that were affected by the partial drought experienced in the last farming season. The World Food Program (WFP) pledged earlier this month to provide about 65 million US dollars to help Zambia procure food for the vulnerable people.