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Tuesday, 20 August, 2002, 02:00 GMT 03:00 UK
World 'ignoring' African food crisis
Starving mother and child in Malawi (Pic: Bo Mathisen, IFRC)
Some 7,000 children are in immediate danger (Pic: IFRC)
The head of the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) says the world is ignoring the food crisis in southern Africa.

Carol Bellamy, Unicef's executive director, appealed for $30m in aid for the region when she visited Malawi, where three million people face starvation.

Malawians waiting for food (Pic: Bo Mathisen, IFRC)
Many families 'have no coping strategy' (Pic: IFRC)
"Without help from the international community, things will get out of hand," she said at a feeding centre in the shanty town of Ndirande on the outskirts of Blantyre, Malawi's commercial capital.

Malawi's national co-ordinator for nutrition, Thereza Banda, told Ms Bellamy that 7,000 Malawian children were on the verge of death.

Another 65,000 children in the country were suffering from malnutrition, Ms Banda added.

Malawi declared a state of disaster in February over a severe food shortage.

Empty classrooms

The Unicef director said that the food crisis had also hit schools in the country, with more than 500,000 students dropping out.

Malawi's school enrolment had tripled in 1994 to 3.2 million when free primary education was introduced.

Unicef has set aside $3.5m for Malawi's malnourished children and lactating mothers, Ms Bellamy said.

A spokeswoman for the World Food Programme, Thigo Mtegha, told the BBC that many families in Malawi were at the end of their resources.

"What you are seeing are households that have a little bit of food that are saying that this food will last for a period of a month after which they will have no coping strategy whatsoever," she said.

The Unicef director was in Malawi at the start of a regional tour which will also take her to Zambia, Kenya and South Africa.

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The BBC's James Cowling
"The situation in Malawi... is particularly devastating"

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01 Aug 02 | Africa
14 May 02 | Africa
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