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Thanksgiving lifeline for southern Africa's hungriest

As the “hungry season” between harvests in southern Africa moves into its harshest phase, WFP welcomed the latest generous American donation of food for the region’s most vulnerable people, valued at US $45 million.

The donation of 85,000 metric tons, announced the day before the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, brings the total value of food donated by the U.S. government for this year’s WFP southern Africa operation to US$150 million.

WFP is struggling to feed nearly 10 million people, confronted by a fourth straight year of poor grain harvests amid some of the world’s highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates.

“It is wonderful to see such overwhelming support for the men, women and children of southern Africa daily contending with unimaginable hardships,” said WFP Executive Director James T. Morris.

Strongest ally

it is so crucial that donors respond as soon as possible when we ask for help, because so many children depend on what WFP provides them for their very survival
James Morris, WFP Executive Director
“The United States is our strongest ally in the war on hunger and has shown time and again its support for the poorest and most destitute people around the globe. This is an especially meaningful gesture as Americans prepare for their Thanksgiving meals – and give thanks for their own rescue from hunger many centuries ago.”

This donation is the latest in a series of contributions of food aid totaling US$74.6 million since last August, when the United States donated US$49 million -- the second-biggest pledge ever made to WFP’s operations in southern Africa.

Hungry season

That food will soon arrive in the region and will be distributed during the toughest months of the “lean” or “hungry” season, when food is at its scarcest and prices soar out of reach of the poorest.

“Southern Africa is of particular concern because it has chronic food shortages coupled with the tragic distinction of having the world’s highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates, which threaten to destroy the social fabric of nations across the region,” said Morris, who is also the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in southern Africa.

“That is why it is so crucial that donors respond as soon as possible when we ask for help, because so many children depend on what WFP provides them for their very survival,” said Morris.

International assistance

The latest U.S. donations will start arriving in the region in January 2006 and include beans, peas, lentils, maize meal, corn-soya blend, sorghum, millet, vegetable oil and bulgur wheat. The food will be distributed across Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

For the last seven months, WFP has called for international assistance to feed the most vulnerable in the region.

Even with the latest large U.S. contribution, WFP still requires US$102 million to feed 9.7 million of the hungriest people through to April/May next year.