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Friday, 7 June, 2002, 18:36 GMT 19:36 UK
Famine warning for Southern Africa
People sitting in a field
Crops have failed across the region

A meeting of international aid agencies, donor governments and humanitarian organisations has ended with a stark warning of a humanitarian catastrophe if urgent supplies are not provided.

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation and the World Food Programme said in a joint statement that the spectre of mass starvation is threatening the region with the worst humanitarian disaster for a decade.


Famine crisis:








This time, huge HIV/Aids infection rates are exacerbating problems for people who are already mired in chronic poverty.

"We have a couple of months only in order to be able to get in place some of the massive supplies necessary," said Ross Mountain is assistant emergency relief co-ordinator for the United Nations.

"It's not inevitable that these 12.8, 13 million people need to be victims on television.

"If everybody moves now, then we should be able to make a very real difference."

Political influence

The food crisis is the result of two years of drought, but many of the delegates also acknowledged that political factors have played a central role in some countries.

This is most noticeable in Zimbabwe, where the continuing land reform programme and seizure of white-owned farms has crippled agricultural production in a country that had been one of the region's bread baskets.

Sacks of grain being unloaded
Some food aid has arrived in Malawi but more is needed

The conference focused on co-ordinating a humanitarian response between the different UN bodies, aid agencies and governments.

What they need now are pledges of aid.

Nearly 1.5m tonnes of maize is needed to help feed those most at risk until the next harvest season in 10 months time.


Key stories

Horn of Africa

Southern Africa

West Africa

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See also:

06 Jun 02 | Africa
30 May 02 | Africa
06 Jun 02 | Africa
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