Africa famine update: Zambia

Dr. Joyce Miti, Plan Zambia reports "The Zambian government's refusal to accept genetically modified (GM) maize for food aid has thrown the food relief operations in the country in total disarray.
Plan Zambia had planned to start food relief operations in Mazabuka in September for 7 months in partnership with World Vision International (WVI). However, we have a situation where sourcing food has become very difficult. We had hoped that WVI may start distributions in our project areas with food from the World Food Program (WFP), but because of the ban on GM food (the bulk of what WFP had already brought in the country), WVI has suspended its relief operations until they can source food elsewhere.

WFP has just completed a food assessment exercise in the Southern Province. Their findings show that food reserves for most families are either depleted or are dwindling quite fast. In the valley areas of Southern Province, it is estimated that only 20% of the population has food and it is anticipated that come January all families will run out of food. In the same assessment it has been noted that there are no cases of acute malnutrition or wasting yet but it is feared that the situation will deteriorate in two months if no food is provided to the Province. At the same time it has also been noted that prices of commercial maize have shot up considerably in the affected areas.

Plan Zambia's efforts to source food (maize) have been unsuccessful as locally there is no surplus maize. We have identified a source of a commercially prepared, fortified "Max- a- Meal", composed of grain and pulses (blended mix of samp, dried beans, peas, barley, and lentils). This meal is ideal as supplementary food. Understandably, this food is more expensive than commercial maize but is far superior nutritionally. The government is planning to purchase the same food to distribute to hard hit areas.

We plan to supply this to the affected communities in Mazabuka in collaboration with WVI for at least three months. We are hoping that by that time the food situation will have improved. The food will be targeted to the families who have been selected by the community as the most vulnerable and in need of support. The beneficiaries will include female and child-headed households, widows, lactating mothers and children under five, the sick, disabled and the aged.

We are developing a joint proposal with WVI to start distribution of this food before the end of September. The source of the food is South Africa and will be in the communities within two weeks of making orders."

At least 30,000 families in Plan communities need food aid.

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