Zimbabwe: WFP revisits amid reports of worsening food crisis

JOHANNESBURG, 20 January (IRIN) - Amid reports that the number of people in need of emergency food aid has increased significantly, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) chief executive James Morris is expected to revisit Zimbabwe from the 23-25 January.
According to the latest multi-agency vulnerability assessment conducted in December 2002, the food security situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated in all parts of the country. The number of people facing hunger through March 2003 has increased from 6.7 million to 7.2 million.

WFP said the mission would review current responses to the humanitarian crisis and follow up on the findings of Morris' first mission in September, which highlighted the role that HIV/AIDS has played in exacerbating the current crisis.

Morris' visit to Zimbabwe from 23-25 January is part of a week-long visit to Africa, which will take in three other drought-hit countries: Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia. He will be accompanied by UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis.

"The mission will place special emphasis on the impact of the pandemic and, in particular, look at how the UN system and the international community can more effectively assist women, whose lives are most at risk from the disease," WFP said in a statement.

While many regional governments and some foreign donor agencies say the weather is the primary cause of the current food crisis, Lewis has said HIV/AIDS was the real culprit as the disease wiped out agricultural labour, diverted family resources and overwhelmed traditional community safety nets.

WFP added that the UN Consolidated Appeal for Southern Africa for US $611 million remained seriously under-resourced, with only US $352 million (58 percent) in confirmed donations to-date.

In particular, funds for non-food items such as medicines, healthcare, education, water and sanitation supplies, are desperately needed, WFP said.

Morris, who is also WFP's Executive Director, is expected to meet with government officials, donor governments and aid agency representatives in each country. Prega Ramsamy, the Executive Secretary of the Southern Africa Development Community, will join the mission.

The lives of about 15 million people across Southern Africa are threatened by a combination of severe food shortages and HIV/AIDS.


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