HL Deb 22 July 2004 vol 664 cc35-7WS
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos)

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for International Development (Mr Hilary Benn) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

There continue to be significant humanitarian needs in southern Africa, but the widespread humanitarian crisis that began in 2001 has eased. The countries with the most acute needs are Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Since 2001, my department has provided humanitarian assistance totalling over 136 million dollars for the six countries covered by the UN consolidated appeals for southern Africa—Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland.

Total availability of the cereals harvest in the region, including South Africa, is forecast to be around 22.7 million metric tonnes this year. This is around the same level as the past five-year average for the region. Late rains and increased plantings have helped to increase production levels in Mozambique and Zambia in particular, while output in South Africa is slightly down on last year. Zambia has overtaken South Africa as the biggest regional source of grains for WFP programmes in southern Africa this year. However, production in Malawi, Lesotho and Swaziland has declined compared to last year. And throughout the region, many poor people are unable to secure enough food regardless of the national or regional production level.

The UN has recently released the latest crop and food supply assessments for Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland. The biggest shortfall is again expected to be in Zimbabwe. The Government of Zimbabwe's refusal to allow the UN to complete its assessment in the country makes it difficult to quantify food aid needs, but the Government's forecasts of a bumper harvest are not taken seriously by the main agencies working there. The cereal shortfall after domestic production in Zimbabwe is likely to be in the region of around 600,000 to 1 million metric tonnes. Despite claims to the contrary, the Zimbabwe Government are expected to import cereals to cover this shortfall although it is difficult to say how much of the gap they will be able to cover. Pockets of extreme vulnerability are likely to remain beyond the period of the UN consolidated appeal (which ends in December), particularly among socially marginalized groups.

DfID is discussing humanitarian needs with the UN in order to prepare for periods of greater need over the next 10 months. We will respond to further funding appeals in close co-ordination with the vulnerability assessment committees operating in the region.


DfID has spent £67 million on humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe since September 2001. DfID's support for humanitarian relief will be funded through a protracted relief programme worth £18 million over the next two years. This will work with NGOs to provide support to approximately 1.5 million of the poorest households in the country, particularly those affected by HIV/AIDS. The programme will provide targeted food aid, low-cost agricultural inputs and rehabilitation of water points support to stop people falling into acute distress.


Although Zambia is expecting a good cereal harvest this year, Zambians remain vulnerable due to risks associated with access to food, HIV/AIDS and adverse economic conditions, factors that are common throughout the region. DfID recently began a £10 million programme supporting CARE International to help some of the most destitute and poorest groups in Zambia to manage these risks more effectively and is supporting the Government's efforts to establish a vulnerability monitoring system in the country.


In Mozambique, DfID's poverty reduction budget support programme has allowed the Government of Mozambique to steadily improve their disaster management capacity and end the previous pattern of annual emergencies. We continue to support targeted food aid and nutritional supplementation programmes as well as seed and input fairs in Mozambique, a method that gives farmers their choice of appropriate agriculture inputs while supporting the private sector and local economies.


In Malawi, we are working with the UN to support school feeding programmes to feed over 100,000 pupils in five districts. In addition, through the Malawi Social Action Fund, DfID will provide £4.95 million to vulnerable people through a cash-for-work programme from which 100,000 households are expected to benefit.

Swaziland and Lesotho

In Swaziland and Lesotho, we continue to support targeted food aid programmes through the World Food Programme and supplemented by support for seed fairs with FAO. We are also supporting nutritional monitoring work in Lesotho. We are spending £2 million in Lesotho to support the Government's food security priorities as part of the poverty reduction strategy process. This will include the establishment of a national food security policy, which will be aimed at sustaining and promoting livelihoods.

Longer-Term Response

In response to the International Development Select Committee's report of March 2003, DfID is working with governments, the UN and the NGO community to improve our of understanding and response to the problem of food insecurity in southern Africa. We have produced a regional hunger and vulnerability strategy which outlines the regional dimensions of food security in the region and forms the basis of a regional programme of support, which is currently being designed.

We are also working with the regional UN office in Johannesburg to encourage better joint programming among UN agencies and NGO partners in the region. And we are supporting the vulnerability assessment committees in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe so that they can better track vulnerability trends and allow countries and the international community to respond more effectively.

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