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Southern Africa food crisis 2005/6


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  • In 2005/ 2006 an estimated 12 million people were threatened by severe food shortages across southern Africa.
  • A total of seven countries were affected: Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia and Mozambique.
  • The worst affected countries were Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe where it was feared seven million would need food aid before the harvest in March/April 2006.
  • The reasons for the crisis were complex but are generally summed up as the result of a “triple threat” of HIV, erratic rainfall patterns and weak government.
  • The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies appealed for £17.3 million to provide 1.5 million people with food aid, water, sanitation and seeds for planting.

The International Red Cross response

Phiaodonia Chivandire with a boy in front of a house© InfoThe Federation closely monitored the situation when there were initial indications of a crisis and liaised with the UN and other international agencies.

On 18 October 2005, the Federation launched an emergency appeal to assist up to 1.5 million people for nine months with a focus on three areas:

  • Food assistance to individuals and households affected by HIV, orphans and other children made vulnerable by HIV, and the chronically ill (including tuberculosis patients, the elderly, disabled, pregnant and lactating mothers and school-age children).
  • Supporting livelihoods and helping people cope with shocks such as drought through the provision of seeds and fertilisers (for staple crops and vegetable gardens).
  • Improving water and sanitation systems through borehole drilling, the rehabilitation of dry water points, latrine construction, small-scale irrigation schemes, and hygiene education.

Robson Nyarota sitting with daughter© InfoThe strategy of national Red Cross Societies across the region was to provide additional support to vulnerable people targeted through existing programmes.

These include home-based care programmes for people living with HIV, clean water and sanitation schemes, food assistance and other health initiatives.

The British Red Cross response

The British Red Cross has been working to support national Red Cross societies in southern Africa for many years. Since 2002 we had been supporting the distribution of food and other emergency supplies to many communities – maize, beans, oil, soap, hygiene kits and blankets.

In October 2005 the Red Cross launched an appeal to help avert a humanitarian disaster. The money raised was used to support national Red Cross Societies across the southern African region to provide additional support to vulnerable people through existing programmes. These included home-based care programmes for people living with HIV, clean water and sanitation schemes, food assistance, and other health initiatives.

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