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Looming food crisis as aid pipeline dries up

[Zimbabwe] WFP food depot
Obinna Anyadike/IRIN
The World Food Programme (WFP) on Thursday welcomed a recent contribution to its emergency appeal for southern Africa, but said its operations were still seriously underfunded. In July last year WFP appealed for US $311 million to feed 6.5 million people across the region, but has received less than two-thirds of the funds needed, leaving a shortfall of US $127 million. "It is important that donors come forward during January with donations, so that the most vulnerable can be reached during the lean season (January to March)," WFP spokesman Michael Huggins told IRIN. Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and parts of Mozambique were most affected by the current food shortages, mainly because of persistent drought conditions. "We are now looking at extensive drought throughout the southern part of Southern Africa. In Lesotho there has been a total crop failure. Also, the harvest has been significantly reduced in Swaziland and parts of southern Mozambique. It is still too early to say what the impact of drought conditions will have on the rest of the region, but already the situation is South Africa is not optimistic," Huggins said. WFP is feeding an estimated 245,000 people, or about a quarter of the population in Swaziland. The Southern African regional office of World Vision also raised the alarm over food shortages, saying it was "extremely concerned about the worsening humanitarian situation in large parts of Southern Africa". "The low level of funding threatens to undo some of the gains. We appeal to donors to be more forthcoming, or else we will see a repeat of the food crisis experienced in 2002," said Rein Paulsen, World Vision regional coordinator. In Zimbabwe, where over more than six million people need food aid, there have been increasing reports of young girls and boys being forced into commercial sex to sustain themselves and their families. Aid groups have noted that this in turn leads to an escalating HIV/AIDS pandemic. Southern Africa was plunged into a humanitarian crisis in 2002, when food shortages affected 14 million people in six countries - Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Humanitarian agencies said the shortages were brought on by adverse weather conditions and governance failures, worsened by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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