Food security in the Southern Africa region is at its lowest level since 1992. This is a result of a combination of factors, including adverse climatic conditions, economic decline and problematic governance questions, limited access to basic social services and alarmingly high rates of HIV/AIDS infection.
As a result, 13 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe are going to face a severe food crisis, which could trigger distress coping strategies such as premature consumption of harvest, sale of capital assets, withdrawal of children from school, and migration.
To preempt this humanitarian crisis, the World Food Programme has launched the regional emergency operation EMOP 10200.0, "Southern Africa Crisis Response", which was discussed during the inter/agency regional meeting in Johannesburg (6/7 June) and the briefing held in WFP Headquarters in Rome, 19 June 2002.
Starting July 1, 2002, for a period of nine months, 10.2 million beneficiaries throughout the six countries involved will benefit from this emergency operation.
WFP will rely heavily on its implementing partners, who have existing community networks in these countries, to carry out general food distribution, therapeutic, supplementary and school feeding, and food for work activities.
The goals of WFP's food aid will be to prevent severe food shortages at the household level, to safeguard the nutritional well/being of vulnerable segments of the population and to preserve productive and human assets, while also preventing people from migrating in search of labour.
The Director of WFP's Regional Bureau for Eastern and Southern Africa will continue to play a leading role in this emergency, closely coordinating WFP's intervention with that of other United Nations agencies, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and local governments in the region.
To implement this operation fully, WFP will require a total of one million metric tonnes of commodities, at a total cost of US$507,273,092.
Mobilizing sufficient resources for this operation will be critical to preventing a humanitarian catastrophe.
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