WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) have welcomed an extremely generous 140 million rand (US$21.5 million) contribution from the Republic of South Africa to the agencies’ operations in southern Africa.
The donation is the third major contribution from South Africa to the UN agencies since 2003 and 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.
WFP will get 35 million Rand (US$5.4 million) for food aid while the FAO will receive 98 million Rand (US$15 million) for agricultural and livestock inputs. An additional 7 million Rand (US$1.1 million) will be donated for 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,” said Mike Sackett, WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“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.”
Food security needs
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
Mike Sackett, WFP's Regional Director for Southern Africa
In 2003, South Africa donated 170 million Rand to WFP which was used to buy 100,000 tonnes of maize in this country. In 2004, the Government donated 100 million Rand which was divided between the FAO and WFP to help people meet their food security needs.
FAO has supported farmers and their families with agricultural inputs, the provision of poultry and goats, tools for small-scale irrigation and vaccines against animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth and the creation of cassava and sweet potato nurseries and backyard gardens, among other activities.
Large numbers at risk
“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 M. Bauer, Director of FAO’s Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division.
“Rural families will need further support to broaden the basis of their often very poor incomes,” she said.
“Vulnerable households require better access to agricultural and livestock inputs. FAO will provide assistance in livestock surveillance, soil and water conservation and management, gardens, small scale irrigation, training in labour and time saving technologies, school gardening and Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools,” Bauer said.
Large numbers of people in the central-eastern part of southern Africa are at risk of food insecurity
Anne M. Bauer, Director of FAO's Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division
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, Zimbabwe over the next three years.
However, WFP 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.
FAO has asked for US$16 million to finance its emergency activities in southern Africa. To date, the agency has only received US$3 million.
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”.
Rising maize prices
“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,” said Mike Sackett, WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“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.”