June 8, 2005

More food needed, but UN faces aid cuts

Funding shortages may force the U.N. World Food Programme to cut back food aid deliveries to Mozambique despite a government request for more aid to feed 500.000 drought-stricken people, a UN official announced. Mozambique has officially asked for additional and immediate WFP food assistance for around half a million people in its southern and central regions who will see little food until the next harvest in March 2006, WFP country director Angela Van Rynbach said. According to the WFP, 7 million to 10 million people face food shortages across southern Africa in the coming months after rains failed as the staple maize crop was ripening. But she said donations have fallen well short of demand and Mozambique is one of several countries in which handouts may be cut. "WFP is facing a pipeline break in July, meaning that there are insufficient stocks or pledges to continue with the ongoing operations let alone expand to meet increased needs," Van Rynbach stressed "If no further donations come in, WFP must start cutting food rations for close to 150.000 beneficiaries (...) in July," she added.

The Mozambican government request would require about 85.000 tonnes of food, mostly cereals, to assist affected people through work-for-food programmes. While some would likely be delivered direct from western donor states, much would be purchased in neighbouring South Africa. The government launched a separate $21 million appeal to international community this week to fund its contingency plan to cope with the drought. The appeal does not cover food aid. The contingency plan aims to assist about 1.4 million people affected by drought through improving local agriculture, water supply, health and infrastructure such as access roads.

According to the latest statistics which was published by the government, over a quarter million households have been affected by drought in southern and central Mozambique. The current estimate is that 317.202 hectares have been lost out of the 2.58 million planted in the south and centre of the country. In other words, 12.3 per cent of the planted area in the seven affected provinces was lost. The Ministry of Agriculture says this has severely affected 265.642 households - which is well over a million people. Total grain production in this year's harvest is estimated at slightly less than 1.9 million tonnes - a decline of five per cent on the 2004 figure, instead of the expected increase of five per cent. (Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique, Maputo)

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