WFP today warned that hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in Mozambique would go hungry unless the international community stepped into the funding void and helped tackle the agency’s dramatic shortfall.
“We urgently need US$19 million to keep essential feeding programmes going for 430,000 people in Mozambique, but we need the assistance now,” said Mike Sackett, WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“Southern Mozambique is particularly hard hit by the food shortages, and of course, HIV/AIDS is also exacting a terrible toll on the most vulnerable households.”
Across the region, WFP still needs about US$191 million to feed up to 8.5 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Zambia through the next lean season which traditionally runs from December this year to April 2006.
Early price hikes
Nearly every country in the region is experiencing significant price hikes in staple foods, meaning that the poorest people will be increasingly unable to afford to eat as the lean season nears. Price increases are common during a country’s lean season when food stocks are scarcest, but rarely do they start this early in the year.
In the Mozambican city of Xai Xai, maize prices in July were 30 percent higher than a year earlier. In Chokwe, prices in July were 38 percent higher than last year. Similar trends are being observed across the region.
“It is alarming that we’re seeing so many negative signs across southern Africa so early in the season,” Sackett said. “All countries are affected but in Mozambique, the situation is being compounded by a bleak outlook for the next agricultural season as water levels have significantly dropped.”
We have our window of opportunity now and we need to seize it
Mike Sackett, WFP regional director
Dams are much lower than last year’s levels.
While the average percentage of stored water during the March to June period in 2003/4 was 85 percent of the total volume, the average for the same period this year is only 28 percent. The Maputo River is already totally dry over a nine-kilometre stretch.
In May the Government of Mozambique appealed for international assistance for nearly 550,000 people as it became evident that up to 43 percent of the country’s maize production in southern areas was lost.
Currently WFP is reaching just over one third of the 430,000 people who are in immediate need of assistance in the provinces of Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala, Manica and Tete. These provinces have been hardest hit by the country’s fourth successive year of drought. From November onwards, the number of people in need will sharply rise.
“If we are to respond in time to help the people of Mozambique and the rest of southern Africa, then international donors need to be provide cash or food in-kind now,” Sackett said.
“It takes times to get food to the hungriest and waiting until the last minute when the world is forced yet again see emaciated children is would be morally repugnant. We have our window of opportunity now and we need to seize it.”
The situation in Mozambique, and the rest of 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”.