Humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations suffering the cumulative effects of drought and HIV/AIDS in Zambia

Situation Report
Originally published


Location of operation: ZAMBIA
Amount of Decision: EUR 2,200,000
Decision reference number: ECHO/ZMB/EDF/2006/01000

Explanatory Memorandum

1 - Rationale, needs and target population.

1.1. - Rationale:

The general food security situation in Zambia, aggravated by an increased and non-traditional dependence on the monoculture of maize, is rapidly deteriorating following a sharp drop in cereal production as a result of last season's deficient rainfall, compounded by other structural factors such as poor access to inputs and the impact of HIV/AIDS. Zambia is a chronically vulnerable country, 166th out of 177 countries on the HDI scale and 42nd out of 137 countries on DG ECHO's own GINA scale of needs, with a gradually decreasing resource base, and a population of 11.3 million whose life expectancy at birth has fallen to 37.5 years. The population was growing at a rate of about 2.8% a year until 2003, and this rate has fallen to about 1.7% in the last couple of years as the replacement rate falls below the number of - mostly AIDS - deaths. A large proportion (46%) of the population is under 15 years of age. Vulnerability is further exacerbated by the fact that Zambia is land-locked, which increases transport costs of all imports, and by the crippling rates of HIV prevalence of about 18% among women and 13% among men between the ages of 15-49 (1), who are normally the most economically productive segments of the population.

Zambia, together with other countries of the southern African sub-region, suffered its last major drought in 2001-2003, which resulted in the near total depletion of the coping mechanisms of the most vulnerable population groups, which have not yet been fully recovered. On the contrary, the effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic have been felt not only at the level of a reduction in productive labour, but also in the increased burden on surviving family members, who are often sick themselves, struggling to cope as carers as well as breadwinners. Moreover, Corridor disease (2), which has wiped out many of the cattle - including draught animals - of the poorest farmers who did not have the means to vaccinate their beasts, has further decreased their ability to work the land and thus increased their vulnerability. Indeed, in the semi-arid Southern and Western areas of Zambia, farmers need to work relatively large plots of land in order to hope to obtain a decent crop, a particularly onerous task in the absence of animal traction and readily available water supplies. Furthermore, the reduced access to water, combined with existing poor hygiene practices, is resulting in people using contaminated water, spending more time fetching water and reducing or stopping use of water for sanitation and hygiene purposes. This in turn leads to greater spread of water and sanitation-related disease, such as cholera, which is endemic in Zambia.

A series of dry spells during the 2004/5 growing season and the early cessation of rains, especially in Southern and Western provinces, sharply reduced yields and the production of cereals. The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment estimated the 2005 cereal output at 992.000 tonnes, 28% down from last year's bumper harvest and 16% below the average of the previous five years. The very recent rains have generated some optimism about the next harvest though this is still some months off and will still depend on the rainfall pattern.

The overall prospects for the off-season crops (mainly wheat planted in June-July for harvest in November-December) are not good due to low soil moisture conditions and lack of quality seeds. Because much of the agricultural production is for household subsistence, many households, mainly in the southern half of Zambia, have become increasingly vulnerable during the hunger season. Reduced supply on the market is also the cause of the increased price of maize (more than 50% higher in the last quarter of 2005 than in the same period of 2004). Prices are increasing, even against a strengthening of the kwacha, which places access to food even further out of the reach of the most vulnerable households, many of whom are already affected and weakened by HIV and AIDS, and who often have to choose between buying food and buying medicines.

Though there is broad agreement on the affected areas, the estimates of the numbers facing food shortages during the hunger season vary from 1.4 million (WFP) to 1.7 million (Government of Zambia) to 2.1 million (independent assessment carried out by a consortium of international NGOs). Even the lower figure, however, represents 12.4% of the population, and dispels any doubt about the high level of food insecurity in Zambia. The Government declared a state of national disaster in November 2005, and banned the export of locally-produced maize in order to shore up local supply. The World Food Programme did not launch an emergency appeal for Zambia, but decided instead to expand the on-going Regional Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) (3) started in July 2005 to US$185 million. New donor contributions were announced in cash from DfID (US $7 million), the EC (EUR550.000) and in kind from the USA (94.000 MT, worth US$63 million), through WFP.


(1) UNAIDS, figures for 2003. The Central Statistical Office of Zambia gives overall 2002 prevalence rates of 20.4% for the 25-29 years age group (25.1%for women), and of 25.1% for the 30-34 years age group (29.4% for women)

(2) Theileriosis, a parasitic infection affecting cattle, enzootic in areas of east and southern Africa

(3) Covering Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe