Remarks by Kenzo Oshima, USG for Humanitarian Affairs: Launch of the Southern Africa Appeals

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 18 Jul 2002
Your Excellencies, distinguished delegates, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
I have the pleasure to open this meeting by reading a statement from the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. Kofi Annan. The message begins.

"You have gathered at a critical moment in the lives of nearly 13 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In a region already struggling to overcome the legacy of conflict and the debilitating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a severe food security crisis has developed. There is still an opportunity to avert famine and to save lives, but this window is closing rapidly.

Today the United Nations is requesting $611 million for immediate food and other life-sustaining support. This assistance will address food security needs, livelihoods, and the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other communicable diseases.

With your support, we can save lives today. But we must also take a longer-term perspective. For this reason, I have decided to appoint Mr. James Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, as my Special Envoy on the humanitarian crisis in southern Africa. Mr. Morris will travel to the region and work with the Governments to review the humanitarian situation, current relief efforts and contingency planning, in order to ensure coherent and complete response to the crisis. He will also collaborate with donors to ensure that contributions are channeled in the most efficient manner to those in the greatest need.

I call on the international community and the countries concerned to join hands with the United Nations in a partnership to avert another human tragedy on the African continent."

In my capacity as Emergency Relief Coordinator, I am pleased to welcome you to this meeting to launch the Appeals for six of the countries most severely affected by the humanitarian crisis in Southern Africa. I am joined here on the podium by my co-chair, Mr. Reginald Mugwara, Director of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). His presence here is a symbol of the regional dimensions of the crisis and the key role that SADC will play in pulling together the regional strands of our approach.

I am also particularly pleased to welcome the representatives of the countries affected by the crisis - Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. I believe that their presence will allow us to have a substantive dialogue on our strategic approach, and will provide an opportunity to begin addressing specific areas where immediate action is needed.

I would also like to extend a welcome to members of the donor community, representatives of UN agencies - including Ms. Judith Lewis, Regional Director of Eastern and Southern Africa for the World Food Programme who is on the video screen, representatives of the NGO community and members of the press.

As you may be aware, I have just returned from a mission to the region to see the effects of the crisis first-hand. I was accompanied by Ms. Julia Taft, the Director of the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery at UNDP and Judith Lewis of WFP. We were all deeply struck by the impact of the crisis on ordinary citizens and by the scale of the challenge that confronts us. Particularly distressing is the devastating impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic on the countries of the region. The effects of HIV/AIDS and other factors underscores the need for a multi-sectoral approach to address the crisis - food aid must be complemented with health, nutrition, water and sanitation, and other programmes.

We can avert a famine if we act now. We cannot wait until we see the horrific images that are all too familiar from previous famines. The window of opportunity is limited - we have only a few months left to mobilize the needed resources. This will require concerted effort from the Governments in the region, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the UN and its NGO partners and the donor community. We all have a role to play in order to form a coherent regional response. During today's meeting, we will hear from each of these partners who will outline the challenges they face and describe the steps they are taking to address the crisis.

Today's Appeal seeks $611 million to meet urgent food and non-food needs in the six affected countries over the next twelve months. The appeals are the product of detailed multi-sectoral assessments and intensive consultations with stakeholders, and represent a coherent, coordinated and focused emergency approach to a challenging situation. I would like to echo the Secretary-General's call for donors to be generous in their response.

The details of the situation in each country and the specific programmes that will be undertaken are contained in the Appeal documents that are being distributed this morning. In the interest of time, I have tried to be brief in my remarks. I would request that our speakers today similarly confine themselves to providing a brief and concise description of the concrete steps that they are taking as part of the effort to address the crisis. Finally, please note that the Mozambique Appeal is still in preparation and will be made available separately.

I would like to begin by inviting my co-chair, Mr. Reginald Mugwara, to take the floor.

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