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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February, 2005, 07:43 GMT
Africa loses aid to tsunami victims
Ernistina Macaskel
Ernistina Macaskel tends a parched field south of the Lesotho capital
Disaster relief officials in Africa are blaming a big drop in funding on the massive world response to December's Asian tsunami.

The UN's World Food Programme says countries in southern Africa suffering after several years of drought have been particularly badly hit.

Millions of people have been relying on food rations paid for by international aid which is now running out.

Mike Sackett of the World Food Programme told Radio 4's File on 4: "Southern Africa is a forgotten crisis. We are not getting contributions for southern Africa since the tsunami struck.

"We appeal to the donor nations around the world to give additional resources so the needs of hungry southern Africans are met. If they do not get the full food that they need, thousands of them will die over the next year."

In Lesotho, where nearly one in three adults is infected with the HIV virus, the WFP says it can feed fewer than half of the 600,000 people it judges to be in need.

Aids orphans

File on 4 reporter Julian O'Halloran said: "In one school, Aids orphans lined up to receive a monthly ration of split peas, maize and cooking oil.

"Across the playground, their classmates - many equally hungry - went without. There is just not enough food aid to go round."

One aid worker said: "At times when we distribute the food some of those not receiving it cry. I often lie and say: 'Next month I'll give you some' and they are consoled.

"It's very bad when you know in actual fact that's not going to happen."

Other villages visited by File on 4 were receiving no aid whatsover. In one, the team met a widow waiting for death from hunger.

Mission closures

Politicians in Lesotho fear that the country's problems are being forgotten by the outside world. The major UK charity Christian Aid recently confirmed that it plans to end its funding of schemes aimed at helping farmers in Lesotho, refocusing aid efforts elsewhere in Africa.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Office has decided to close its high commission in Lesotho. It says it will cover Lesotho from its mission in Pretoria, South Africa. The move is part of a world-wide closure of smaller diplomatic missions expected to save the UK a total of 6m ($11.3m) a year.

Closing Britain's outpost in Lesotho - one of three African missions to go - has angered the country's Foreign Minister, Monyane Moleleki, who described the timing as "unfortunate to say the least."

He told File On 4: "On the one hand here is Prime Minister Tony Blair saying that he's looking to support Africa during the British presidency of the G8 nations, and on the other he's closing up missions.

"I would appeal to the British government to have another look at this so that the actions don't strike a discordant note with the promises of the prime minister."

File on 4: BBC Radio 4, Tuesday 15 February at 2000 GMT, and repeated on Sunday, 20 February at 1700 GMT

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