WFP PLANS TO BUY MORE FOOD AID IN ZAMBIA SOUTHERN AFRICA'S NEW ‘BREADBASKET'
LUSAKA - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced plans to dramatically increase the amount of food aid purchased in Zambia - as long as there is another substantial surplus in 2005.
In 2002-03 Zambia required emergency food aid for over two million people. With the impact of successive droughts, flooding, loss of assets and livelihoods, compounded by the escalating HIV/AIDS epidemic, Zambia was in crisis and faced severe food shortages.
This year, with a dramatic turn around in production and an excellent harvest, WFP was able to buy 80,000 metric tons of food at a cost of US$16.2 million in Zambia - far more than any other country in the region, including South Africa.
WFP has already bought over 142,000 MT of food aid in Zambia since the start of 2003 at a total cost of US$28 million.
"Zambia has become an essential source of food for WFP's aid operations in southern Africa and we are intending to buy even more food in the country next year," said David Stevenson, WFP's Country Director in Zambia. "However, our plans depend not only on the size of the harvest but also on the cash donations we receive."
If the 2005 harvest produces another sizeable national surplus, WFP aims to buy around 90,000 metric tons of food aid commodities in Zambia - primarily maize, maize meal and HEPS (a nutritious blended food).
"WFP is buying so much food in Zambia that we have decided to set up a local procurement office to further improve the efficiency of our purchasing programme," said Thomas Yanga, WFP's Deputy Regional Director for Southern Africa. "Everything bodes well for a successful local procurement operation, which will benefit our activities - and, most importantly, our beneficiaries - both in Zambia and across the region."
WFP is also aiming to buy commodities from a wider range of suppliers, including small-scale farmers and traders, as this will spread the economic benefits of WFP's programme.
"Local procurement is crucial to WFP's operations but it also has long term benefits for Zambia," said Stevenson. "We are pumping tens of millions of dollars into the Zambian economy and this is helping to stimulate local agricultural markets and provide an incentive for the development of transport and processing networks."
However, while Zambia does boast a surplus, there are still large numbers of vulnerable people in Zambia, who need food assistance. Indeed, 46 percent of the food that WFP has purchased in Zambia has been distributed to needy beneficiaries within the country. The rest has been exported to neighbouring countries.
WFP is currently providing food assistance to approximately 800,000 people, through its school feeding programme for orphans and vulnerable children, food-for-work activities and by providing nutritional support to people living with HIV/AIDS.
With an adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rate of 16.5 percent - the seventh highest in the world - close to one million people are already living with HIV in Zambia. Good nutrition is crucial to people's ability to fight the disease and slow its progression.
WFP is also feeding approximately 90,000 refugees from Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and Rwanda.
"These people lack access to sufficient food. For them, the national surplus is just a dream," said Stevenson. "They do not have money to buy enough food for their families so they go to bed hungry and wake up in the morning even hungrier. They still need WFP's assistance."
But WFP's activities will also benefit the development of the country as a whole by helping it to meet the targets set out in the government's Poverty Reduction Strategy as well as key Millennium Development Goals - such as halving the number of poor and hungry people by 2015.
"WFP will continue to do all it can to assist with Zambia's agricultural progress by expanding our procurement operations and by continuing to support food-for-work and food-for-training schemes that improve rural infrastructure and enhance agricultural production," said Stevenson. "But we do need additional cash donations to keep our operation going."
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.
For just US$19 cents a day, you can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school -- a gift of hope for a brighter future.
For more information please contact:
WFP Country Director/Zambia,
Tel: (+260) 1 254332
Tel: (+260) 97 770 386
Tel: (+27) 11 517 1662;
Cell: (+27) 83 291 3750
Tel: (+27) 11 517 1686;
Cell: (+27) 83 256 5021