by Marko Kokic in Johannesburg
In a show of support for the National Red Cross Societies struggling to cope with a growing food crisis across southern Africa, the secretary general of the International Federation, Didier Cherpitel, has held talks in Johannesburg with the secretaries general of the societies concerned.
In his talks on Monday with the secretaries general of the Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Baphali Swaziland, Malawi and Zambian Red Cross Societies, in addition to the South African society's secretary general, Cherpitel stressed the need for setting time-specific objectives to deal with the crisis.
"Today's meeting is an opportunity for you to express any concerns or challenges you may be facing and for us to explore various solutions together," he said. "With clear objectives we will ensure that this operation - your operation - is a successful one which we can all be proud of."
As a result of two years of poor harvest, a lack of clean drinking water and HIV/AIDS infection rates of 25 per cent, some 14.4 million people across southern Africa are threatened with starvation, malnutrition and disease.
In July, the International Federation launched an appeal for US$ 62 million. It aims, in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide relief and humanitarian assistance to 1.3 million people across five countries, distributing 61,213 tonnes of food assistance, as well as hygiene items, seeds and fertilizers.
After the meeting, Cherpitel said a solid action plan had been drawn up that would be implemented in the next couple of months, when the food security crisis is expected to peak.
"I leave this meeting feeling very confident about the future and am proud of the achievements made by the involved operating National Societies thus far," he said.
Khanya Mabuza, secretary general of the Baphali Swaziland Red Cross Society said the operation in his country had already achieved a great deal: "We have reached about half of those affected. We have also had the opportunity to raise our profile and to establish a partnership with WFP as well as reinforce our relationship with the government through various ministries," he said.