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Food Crisis Worsens In Southern Africa - 2002-10-07

The World Food Program says the hunger crisis is growing worse in six southern African countries. WFP Regional Director for Southern Africa Judith Lewis says there are now nearly fourteen and a half million people who need assistance by December. That compares to twelve-point-eight million when the emergency pleas first started going out earlier this year.

Ms. Lewis says current aid programs have not been as successful as hoped. She says one reason is that “the World Food Program emergency operation is just thirty six percent resourced,” meaning it is barely funded. She says the other “exacerbating factor is that the commercial sector has not been as viable as we thought it would be by now.” The commercial sector has failed to help alleviate the crisis because many countries in southern Africa are struggling.

She says “people are becoming more vulnerable (to hunger) much sooner than we originally thought. Here in southern Africa, the lean season, or the hungry season, usually starts much, much later and closer to the next harvest.” Now, she says, there’s not much planning for the next harvest. People have sold their assets to survive.

So far, the word “famine” is still not being used. But she says it’s critical for emergency food supplies to get to the millions in need by December. Judith Lewis spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua from Johannesburg.