Zambia: Aid moves forward, challenges remain

News and Press Release
Originally published
(United Nations, 24 February 2002): In Zambia, in collaboration with its non-Government implementing partners, the United Nations has delivered over 50,000 metric tons of UN-provided food, and around 27,000MT of government-provided food relief. As well, a measles campaign covering 700,000 children in the south was completed, bringing coverage rates back to 90-100%. Access to clean water supply was improved for over 70,000 people in the south. Around 60,000 farmers who had lost seed were able to plant this year, with the UN programme being a significant component of wider national efforts in agricultural recovery. Stocks of essential drugs were boosted; and support was provided to health facilities to strengthen therapeutic feeding for 3,000 children. Capacity building support to health and nutrition surveillance systems has begun, and will continue in the months ahead.
In the next six months, priorities include addressing the special needs of households affected by HIV/AIDS; reorienting food relief programmes so that food aid does not undermine the market during harvest time; and improving rural health services in Zambia.

Zambia is affected by chronic poverty and devastating rates of HIV prevalence. Two years of highly erratic rains reducing crop yield by 40% have taken their toll, especially for struggling rural populations in southern, western and eastern Zambia. While the nutritional situation is generally stable, there are pockets of concern. The economic stress on families short of food has exacerbated an already alarming trend away from school attendance for both girls and boys. As well, communities with no coping strategies left are resorting to survival strategies, which are putting women and children, in particular, at growing risk of abuse, exploitation and HIV infection.

Overall, HIV/AIDS is resulting in the emergence of a large proportion of the population which is less and less able to meet its own needs, and which is becoming too large for the community to support. Communities with high numbers of chronically ill face an unimaginable burden: simultaneously dealing with food shortages and trying to support families not able to meet all their needs. It is unlikely these communities will recover quickly from food shortages even if the harvest from mid-April is relatively good nationally. Recent studies in Africa have painted an alarming picture of the impact of chronic illness on a household's food security--reduced food production, depleted assets, and reduced labor.

Zambians now face another extremely challenging year. Inflation is running at 26%, while the value of the local currency has eroded by 14%. Prospects for this season's crop are not optimum, with forecasters predicting that the moderate El Niño event in southern Africa could again significantly affect rainfall patterns, particularly in the south. There are also concerns about crop area planted. If the harvest was significantly reduced, a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the currently drought affected areas could follow.

For further information, please contact Stephanie Bunker, OCHA, 917 367 5126, mobile 917 892 1679.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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