The Heat Is Online

Drought Threats 10 Million Southern Africans With Starvation

Zambia declares food disaster

Southern Africa is facing its worst food shortage

BBCNews.com, May 30, 2002

Zambia has declared the country's food shortage a national disaster, saying four million people face starvation.

President Levy Mwanawasa said that current crop production would only feed six million people out of a total population of more than 10 million.

He said that Zambia would run out of food by July or August.

Zambia's move comes a day after the United Nations warned that at least 10 million people face starvation in four southern African countries unless the international community acts swiftly.

Food handouts

"I make a passionate appeal to the international community to assist us in this time of need," Mr Mwanawasa said.

He said crop assessments showed the country would have a maize shortage of 630,000 tonnes. Maize is the staple diet in southern Africa.

"Given this scenario and concern for the survival of our people, my government has decided to declare a national disaster with regard to food insecurity in the nation and water shortage in the Southern province," Mr Mwanawasa said in a statement.

Millions of Zambians would have to depend on foreign food handouts and imports, he warned.

"Water points like streams, wells and dams are drying up or have already dried up.

"This will result in poor sanitation and increased health risks for our people," he said.

Floods and drought during the 2000/2001 season reduced Zambia's maize production to 490,000 tonnes from 700,000.

Drought in the 2001/2002 season compounded the problem.

Aid operation

Southern Africa is facing its worst food shortage in a decade due to a mixture of drought, floods and economic instability.

A UN report on Wednesday said there were several reasons for the current crisis, including drought, economic policies and, in Zimbabwe, the disruption of farming due to the government's controversial land reform programme.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have called on international donors to provide supplies, estimating that southern Africa will have to import almost 4 million tonnes of food over the next year if it is to meet the needs of its population.

The WFP had estimated that the cost of such an international aid operation would be around $400 million.

"We have to get the message out to donors - a famine can be averted if they act quickly," Judith Lewis, WFP's regional director for southern and eastern Africa, told Reuters. "Much needs to be done, and we need to do it now."

The crisis has been made worse by the high rate of HIV and Aids in the region, which has weakened the local population's resistance to disease and left them more susceptible to famine.

Millions at risk in southern Africa

Basic food supplies have been destroyed by drought

BBCNews.com, May 29, 2002

At least 10 million people face starvation in four southern African countries unless the international community acts swiftly, UN aid agencies have warned.

A report jointly compiled by the UN World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organisation - one of the most comprehensive to date of the crisis - said that famine in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland is not yet widespread, but warned that urgent action is needed in order to avert a humanitarian crisis.

It added that once information is completed from two other southern African countries - Zambia and Mozambique - the situation would appear "even bleaker".

There are several reasons, the report states, for the current crisis, including drought, economic policies and, in Zimbabwe, the disruption of farming due to the government's controversial land reform programme.

The price of maize - southern Africa's staple food - has also soared due to drought affecting the crop in countries such as Malawi.

Situation urgent

Both agencies have called on international donors to provide supplies, estimating that southern Africa will have to import almost 4 million tonnes of food over the next year if it is to meet the needs of its population.

The WFP has estimated that the cost of such an international aid operation would be around $400 million, Reuters news agency reported.

"We have to get the message out to donors - a famine can be averted if they act quickly," Judith Lewis, WFP's regional director for southern and eastern Africa, told Reuters.

"Much needs to be done, and we need to do it now."

The crisis has been made worse by the high rate of HIV and Aids in the region, which has weakened the local population's resistance to disease and left them more susceptible to famine.

In addition, climatologists have warned that El Nino, a periodic warming of part of the Pacific Ocean, may well return this year, which could in turn lead to yet more floods and drought in the stricken region.