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WFP: 6.5 Million in Southern Africa Face Starvation - 2003-10-03

The World Food Program says 6.5 million people in southern Africa will face starvation early next year, unless donor funding for humanitarian relief is increased soon. And, long-term projects aimed at self-sufficiency in local communities are also threatened by a lack of funds.

James Morris, United Nations special envoy for humanitarian needs in southern Africa, says populations in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Mozambique are most at risk for starvation in the first three months of next year.

"We're in a predicament now where our needs, especially in Lesotho, our needs in southern Mozambique and our needs throughout Zimbabwe are very, very intense, especially towards the first of the year [2004]," he said.

Earlier this year, the World Food Program launched an emergency program to assist 14.5 million people facing starvation in six southern Africa countries. Three of those countries - Zambia, Malawi and Swaziland - subsequently had good harvests, but food production in the others, particularly Zimbabwe, was poor.

In addition to the need for food, there is an alarming shortage of seeds and fertilizers for subsistence farming this season. Mr. Morris says the countries facing the most severe shortage of these agricultural inputs are Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

"Right off the bat, there is an enormous need for agricultural inputs, seed and fertilizer," said James Morris. "My sense is that there is a serious, serious shortage of seeds and fertilizer in parts of Mozambique and across Zimbabwe."

Mr. Morris says an investment in seeds and fertilizer for the region by donor countries now will result in enormous benefits over the agricultural season. In most areas of the region, farmers must plant no later than October to benefit from the entire growing season.