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Millions In Southern Africa Face Hungry Xmas


Millions In Southern Africa Face Hungry Xmas Due To Poor Donor Response - UN

With the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) facing a severe shortfall in funds, millions of people across southern Africa are again confronted by the grim prospect of not having enough to eat during the Christmas season and beyond unless donors respond immediately with generous cash contributions.

"There will be serious health and nutritional repercussions if people have to accept a further reduction in their meagre ration," WFP Regional Director for southern Africa Mike Sackett said. "While many of us will be sitting down with our families and friends to celebrate Christmas, millions of men, women and children face a very bleak time because we were unable to meet their basic food needs."

The agency needs an immediate $63 million to meet food aid needs for the first quarter of 2005 in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zambia, the five core countries affected by emergency food shortages over the last two years. Cash contributions are essential to enable local food purchases, which also benefit local economies. Food shipments from abroad would not arrive in time to help the most vulnerable people through the lean season.

WFP launched a $404 million three-year appeal in October for the five countries but so far has received only 2.5 per cent of that amount - about $10 million - including a timely $3.1 million donation from the Government of Japan.

The agency has been steadily cutting rations to more than 2.8 million people over the last six months, many of them living with HIV/AIDS and many of them children. Most have been surviving on half a normal ration, or less. The cutbacks follow a decline in contributions from donors beset by compelling demands spawned by numerous crises.

"The traditional lean season - from January to March - will be particularly tough as we will have to cut rations even further unless we receive immediate cash donations," Mr. Sackett said. "WFP will run out region in the following weeks. By the beginning of March we won't have any cereals left."

He noted that Angola, Namibia and Zambia also needed added funds. In Angola, where displaced and newly resettled refugees have already experienced significant food reductions, WFP still requires $50 million to meet the country's food needs up to the end 2005. In Namibia, more than 100,000 orphans and other children affected by HIV/AIDS face an uncertain future and the agency needs $3.4 million to continue supporting them up to March. And in Zambia, WFP requires $8 million to assist 86,000 Angolan and Congolese refugees.

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