SA gives to region’s hungry

5 October 2005

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have praised South Africa for a R140-million (US$21.5-million) contribution to the agencies’ operations in southern Africa.

The WFP will R35-million ($5.4-million) for food aid while the FAO will receive R98-million ($15-million) for agricultural and livestock inputs. An additional R7-million ($1.1-million) will be donated for the SADC Regional Early Warning System.

“Yet again the government of South Africa is playing a leading role in trying to help its neighbours during their time of critical food need”, WFP regional director for southern Africa Mike Sackett said in a statement on Tuesday.

According to the WFP, the donation comes at a critical time in the gearing up phase of programmes ahead of the region’s lean season, which starts as early as November in some countries.

“Already many poor people have very little to eat and their needs are only going to escalate the closer we get to the lean season, but because it’s a cash donation, we’ll be able to buy food locally and quickly transport it to the people in need,” Sackett said.

The donation is the third major contribution from South Africa to the UN agencies since 2003, when SA donated R170-million, followed by a R100-million donation in 2004.

The situation in southern Africa is considered so serious that in early August, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan wrote to 27 heads of state, the European Commission and the African Development Bank to raise the alarm for urgent funding to “avert a catastrophe”.

“Large numbers of people in the central-eastern part of southern Africa – including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and southern Mozambique – are at risk of food insecurity due to reduced harvests, lack of purchasing power and the devastating effects of HIV/Aids,” said Anne Bauer, director of the FAO’s emergency operations and rehabilitation division.

The WFP launched a regional appeal in January this year for US$621-million to assist the region’s most vulnerable in Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe over the next three years.

The organisation says it faces an immediate funding shortfall of US$152-million to feed up to 9.2-million people through to the end of the next lean season in March/April 2006.

The FAO, for its part, has asked for $16-million to finance its emergency activities in southern Africa. To date, the agency has only received $3-million.

“Maize prices are already rising dramatically in most countries in the region, months ahead of the lean season, which means that many people we assumed would be able to fend for themselves will need food aid earlier,” Sackett said.

“The South African donation comes at the right time to help many people who would otherwise face an extremely difficult and long period without enough food to eat.”

SouthAfrica.info reporter