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Zambia: Food Crisis - 2002-06-11

Zambia – one of the countries in southern Africa hardest hit by a food shortage – will be getting emergency relief aid starting next month. The World Food program, the WFP, is leading the effort. VOA English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua has the story.

Richard Ragan, the WFP’s country representative for Zambia, says the country has fallen victim to the extremes of nature.

He says, "Zambia has actually been affected by two phenomena. Last year during the growing season, they suffered drought in some parts of the country and flooding in other parts of the country."

Last December, the World Food Program began an operation that targeted more than one million people. Most were farmers who had lost their crops.

Mr. Ragan says, "Now, this year, Zambia and the rest of the southern Africa region have been hit by another drought. Zambia, in particular, has been hit I think harder than some of the rest. And the area that the drought concentrated on was the western and southern growing regions of the country."

The relief operation scheduled to start in July will distribute food to two and a half million people. Mr. Ragan says among the worst off are those suffering the effects of HIV/AIDS.

"Throughout the sub-continent, we’ve seen an incredible spike in the HIV incidence level," he says. "In Zambia, I think it’s around twenty percent in the urban areas, maybe even a little higher. And in the rural areas anywhere from fifteen to twenty percent. That has a very clear impact on the general health and well being of people throughout the country."

He says this includes between 600-thousand and one million AIDS orphans.

Maize is the staple food in Zambia and will make up most of the emergency shipments.

The food crisis led President Levy Mwanawasa to declare a state of disaster last month and appeal for international help. Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland are facing similar problems. (Signed)