The UN special envoy for humanitarian needs says he’s more optimistic about southern Africa meeting its food security needs. But he says long-term problems persist for the region.
James Morris, who also heads the World Food Program, is currently in Malawi as part of his five-day visit to the region. From Lilongwe, he spoke to English to Africa’s Joe De Capua about the status of food security in southern Africa.
“Food security situation is being addressed by commitments of governments…the generosity of the international donor community. There are essentially between nine and ten million people at risk of food shortage, food insecurity, in the six or seven countries of southern Africa. While there are still some needs, the donor community has been very generous. We need some additional help in March and in April, but no one is going to die. The food issues are being addressed comfortably.”
Has he seen improvements, such as better harvests in the region? Morris says, “I’m very optimistic because the region has had a good rain and they’re looking toward harvests of April, and May and June that will provide food for the next year. So, there’s some reason to be encouraged because of better weather, more rain going forward. The question is: Were adequate seed and fertilizer available so that the region can take advantage of the better weather? But I’m also a bit more encouraged. I’ve been in Mozambique and I’m now in Malawi and governments at least in these two places are very focused on addressing the larger or medium term issues of food security: alternative cropping, more commitment to irrigation, better provision of seeds and fertilizer…I’m a little more optimistic than I have been about the future.”
But southern Africa faces problems in addition to food insecurity. “Well, clearly the issue of HIV/AIDS is just overwhelming. There are several countries where life expectancy is now down into the 30’s. The impact of HIV on the professions…in sub-Saharan Africa seven million farm workers have died of HIV and many more are sick and debilitated. The impact of HIV on every facet of southern Africa society is overwhelming.”