Zimbabwe + 5 more

Southern African Humanitarian Crisis Update - 8 March 2004


RIACSO has launched its campaign "Through the Eyes of Women" on 8 March 2004. The aim of the campaign is to alert the world to the triple threat and advocate for support to southern African women throughout the year.

Malianano Mafereka from La Hepolesa village in Lesotho fears that this year's drought is the worst. Special Envoy James Morris confirmed Malianano's fear and raised international alarm when he visited the country on 5 March 2004.

Distinguished representatives from 22 sub-Saharan countries met in Johannesburg, South Africa from 15-17 February at a high level workshop organized by UNDP to discuss ways and means of promoting women and gender issues in the development process in Africa.

Simangaliso Ncube is a 17 year old orphan in one of the driest districts in Zimbabwe. She takes care of her two younger siblings and her 1 year old baby. She relies entirely on WFP food assistance for survival.

Thirty-six year old Regina Mtantho from Malawi was one of the beneficiaries of the FAO irrigation project distributing treadle pumps. Since then Regina and her family have been able to produce surplus food, while they normally were not able to meet their food needs.

WHO has declared the lack of access to Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) a global health emergency and set itself the target to ensure 3 million of the world's most deserving and vulnerable people are reached with ART by 2005. The initiative will cost US$ 200 million, but little funding has been forthcoming. Special Envoy Stephen Lewis raised alarm about the lack of funds, claiming that the disease disproportionately affects women. What greater motivation is required for the world to free US$ 200 million, he asked? Indeed, confirmed 17 women from the National Zambian Positive People's Association (NZP+), "We hear that ARVs are supposed to be provided at the government hospitals, but no-one has told us where the line is!"

Julia Likhama is a teacher at Katlehong primary school in Lesotho. Each year she has seen more and more orphans coming to the school. Free primary education that has been rolled out year by year since 2000 is starting to revolutionize Lesotho's youth. At school children are taught life skills, HIV/AIDS education, supported by UNICEF which is also assisting with curriculum development; the children are also given two meals a day through the World Food Programme's school feeding scheme.

The American Embassy in Zambia has agreed to assist teenage mothers in Meheba Refugee Settlement to get back to school. The project has made a positive impact in the lives of refugee girls.

The United Nations High Level Committee on Programmes has produced a Note on organizing the UN response to the triple threat of food insecurity, weakened capacity for governance and AIDS for southern and eastern Africa. One of the main programmatic points is: "to undertake dedicated programmes for women's empowerment".

The Secretary General said in his address on International Women's Day that HIV/AIDS is taking a disproportionate toll on women and that women play a critical role in fighting AIDS.

The SouthernAfrica Humanitarian Appeal is now 50 % funded. Especially for non-food activities more funds are needed.


Through the Eyes of Women

International Women's Day (8 March) commemorates the struggle of ordinary women as makers of history in their fight for equality, justice, peace and development. The United Nations has celebrated this day since 1975 -- the International Women's Year.

The theme for International Women's Day in 2004 is "Women and HIV/AIDS". On this, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, said last year "Women now account for 50 per cent of those infected with HIV worldwide. In Africa, that figure is now 58 per cent. AIDS has already caused untold suffering by killing almost two and a half million Africans this year alone, and leaving 11 million African children orphaned since the epidemic began. Now it is depriving these countries of their capacity to resist famine, by weakening exactly those mechanisms that enable populations to fight back -- the coping mechanisms provided by women."

RIACSO is launching its campaign "Through the Eyes of Women" on International Women's Day, to honour the many brave women in southern Africa who fight day-in-day-out to put food on the table for their families, who struggle to get healthcare for the sick they nurture, who take on the extra care of their brother's, sister's and neighbour's children, orphaned by HIV/AIDS; and who often themselves suffer from HIV/AIDS. The campaign gives credit to the many strong women who stand by their side, highlighting the plight of women overburdened by HIV/AIDS, demanding basic human rights and equality.

The situation in southern Africa is rather unique. The triple threat of food insecurity, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and weakened government capacity has left 6.8 million people in southern Africa in need of humanitarian assistance. In response, the United Nations launched a Consolidated Appeal in July 2003, in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and key NGOs, for US$642 million to address critical needs in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The UN has so far received US$324 million, of which only US$24 million is for non-food activities. This represents just 14 percent of the estimated US$164 million requirements to cover the urgent needs in these sectors during the period July 2003 to June 2004.

The aim of the campaign is to alert the world to the triple threat and advocate for support to southern African women throughout the year. To CHANGE their situations, to give expression to themselves, to be supported in their efforts, to speak out. We hope to influence decision makers with regards to these women in donor countries but more importantly within their own countries - and we need the donors support towards this effort...

See for the full campaign www.sahims.net

This year is the worst

"Last year the drought was bad but it was nothing like now. This year is the worst."

Malianano Mafereka from La Hepolesa village in Lesotho's southern district of Mafeteng, widow and mother of 7, is one of the most vulnerable and has been receiving WFP food aid for almost a year. "I did not even bother to till my field this year. What is the point without rain? It would just have been a waste of time." Unfortunately, Malianano's winter crop was also destroyed by the drought. So she finds herself with seven children to feed and no food stocks to fall back on.

In February, the government declared a state of emergency. After the almost complete failure of the winter crop, it now seems likely that the main maize harvest in April/May will be far below normal due to the ongoing drought.

WFP confirms that the situation this year is worst then in 2002. "Any hopes that Lesotho's humanitarian crisis would begin to ease this year have been dashed by yet another drought and by the increasingly devastating impact of HIV/AIDS," said James Morris, WFP Executive Director and Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa. "Hundreds of thousands of people -- many of them infected or affected by HIV/AIDS -- will once again need the help of the international community to survive."

Morris travelled to Lesotho on Friday 5 March 2004, as part of a high level UN delegation including the Executive Directors of UNICEF and UNAIDS, Carol Bellamy and Peter Piot. They will meet with members of the government and visit some of the worst affected areas.

The mission members pointed at the need for non-food aid projects, which provide better access to water, sanitation, education and health care, will also be essential, in particular to help combat HIV/AIDS. "Tens of thousands of orphans in Lesotho are growing up without the care and protection they need," Bellamy said. "We must do everything we can to make sure they are in school and are getting the information, skills and support that will help protect them from HIV/AIDS and give them a fighting chance of having a healthy and productive future."

The food crisis in Lesotho is the result of a complex web of factors, including drought, the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, extreme poverty and worsening soil erosion. Since launching its emergency operations in Lesotho in July 2002, WFP has distributed over 48,000 MT of food aid to over 600,000 people. For the full story see www.sahims.net

Promoting women and gender issues in the development process in Africa

Distinguished representatives from 22 sub-Saharan countries met in Johannesburg, South Africa from 15-17 February at a high level workshop organized by UNDP to discuss ways and means of promoting women and gender issues in the development process in Africa. The Workshop reviewed progress made during UNDP's previous Regional Programme for Africa; highlighted the role of the Millennium Development Goals in furthering gender equality and equity throughout Africa; and discussed efforts to integrate African women into the advances in global trade arrangements being made through NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development).

In addition to developing a comprehensive strategy, plan of action and monitoring process, the Workshop also identified productive partnerships for the success of the initiative, including further exchanges and action within the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The Workshop provided pointers for strengthening on-going alliances made over the past three years, particularly with private foundations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the African Women's Media Centre and Sony Music Entertainment, as well as the region's traditional development partners -- CIDA, Dfid, JICA, USAID and the EC. New partners in development, such as the Global Summit of Women, the Business Women's Network, Daimler Chrysler, and the Global Grassroots Entrepreneurs Trading Network have also joined as active participants in the expanded coalition to advance women's rights and empowerment in Africa.

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