Hopes that the growing humanitarian crisis in Southern Africa had been checked are "fading fast", say aid agencies.
A mid-term review of the consolidated appeal for the region notes that the food security situation is "again being severely threatened", while aid for non-food items has not been forthcoming.
At the launch of the review, the eight UN agencies said they still required US $318 million for a multisectoral approach to address the needs of southern Africa and the "situation ... remains precarious."
The total amount of the consolidated appeal now stands at US $642 million. "Our major problem has been that while donor response to food aid has been good, it has not been the case with the non-food items, such as water, health care and education, which are just as important," said World Food Programme spokesman Richard Lee.
According to the review, 70 percent of food aid needs have been covered, however, only 14 percent of non-food aid projects and social services support were in place. "Several key donors have cited [the crisis in] Iraq as a reason for the limited response," the review stated.
The consolidated appeal was launched in July 2003 by UN agencies, in collaboration with the Southern African Development Community and key NGO partners, to address the critical needs of 6.5 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
"These are people for whom the prospect of survival is critical in the face of the combined effects of food insecurity, weakened capacity for governance and HIV/AIDS," said Chris Kaye, regional representative of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Children have been worst-affected by the poor response to non-food activities, which amounts to only $24 million.
"After millions of children have been saved from starvation, it is tragic that their lives now remain at risk from a lack of clean water, adequate sanitation and proper health care. Unfortunately, without additional funds, crucial projects in these fields will have to be scaled back, while others may never be implemented at all," explained James Morris, UN Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa.
As a result of limited resources, some agencies in the health sector were compelled to divert funds from regular programmes to respond to outbreaks of diseases and urgent sexual reproductive health issues, while outreach services to vulnerable populations, including orphans and vulnerable children (OVC), had been delayed in some instances.
"By mid-January, key sectors, including health and nutrition and water/sanitation, which is crucial for reducing morbidity and mortality, had received only 30 percent and 20 percent of requirements respectively," the review noted.
The protection sector, which includes programmes ensuring basic care and protection for OVC, received no funds. Resources were also insufficient for the agricultural sector, resulting in the failure to stop the spread of foot-and-mouth disease and contagious bovine pleuro-pneumonia. "Failure to contain these diseases will seriously affect the already severely reduced livestock assets of vulnerable households and national economies," the review noted.
Besides the lack of funding, the review listed several other negative developments in the region, such as faltering health services and erratic weather patterns, which have affected the agricultural season.
Increased unemployment, caused by the deterioration of political and economical conditions, particularly in Zimbabwe, had impacted negatively on household incomes. The appreciation of the South African rand during the second half of 2003 had also made products imported from South Africa more expensive for its neighbours.
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