Memorandum submitted by Oxfam
1. Oxfam welcomes the opportunity to feed
into this important inquiry into the current humanitarian crisis
in Southern Africa. Information contained in the submission on
Oxfam's programme and the humanitarian situation on the ground
is up to date as of the 26 September 2002.
Urgent humanitarian needs
2. The number of people in Southern Africa
now facing severe food shortages and famine has risen from almost
13 million as of last month to 14.4 million, according to the
latest UN figures. In the middle of August WFP described the situation
across Southern Africa as "very grim", with funding
for the UN Consolidated Appeal standing at only 23 per cent. There
has been some improvement in funding since then, the current figure
is 36 per cent, but there remains a shortfall of well over half
the amount needed.
3. Results of WFP's regional assessments,
co-ordinated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC),
have just come in and they reveal that the situation is worsening.
Results from Malawi show that the winter harvest has been less
successful than expected and the country will require 232,000
MT of emergency cereal food assistance through to March 2003.
In Zimbabwe, again results show the food situation worsening,
forcing some to eat wild foods. The assessment shows that Zimbabwe
will require 486,000 MT of emergency cereal food assistance through
to March 2003. Across the region there is also an increase in
negative social indicators such as early marriages, school drop
out rates rising, and increased prostitution.
4. Most of the food currently available
for humanitarian distributions is US supplied GM maize. However,
governments across Southern Africa have expressed real concerns
about the possible effects of this. Worries exist not just about
its safety for consumption, but also over farmers planting GM
seeds, and the possibility of this spreading and contaminating
local maize varieties. The picture for this month in Zambia particularly
is bleak. 19,000 MT of maize is needed for September yet WFP has
no further supplies of white maize (only 2 per cent GM content
and therefore acceptable) in the pipeline. An Oxfam GB food security
and nutrition survey in three districts of the Southern Province
has already found alarming results, highlighting severe malnutrition.
Governments in the region are being placed in a no-win position
of having to balance meeting immediate short-term needstheir
people suffering from hungerwith possible long-term threats
to future food production. Oxfam believes that all governments
have the right to determine their policy on GM but, if there really
is no alternative, urges them to take a pragmatic approach in
order to prevent starvation.
Humanitarian situation in brief (figures from
WFP's recent regional assessments)
5. MalawiApproximately 3.3 million
people (29 per cent of the population) in Malawi are vulnerable.
The current maize shortage, the preferred staple of the vast majority
of Malawians, in combination with a poor harvest last year which
left few carry over stocks, has meant that many people are already
reaching a stage of near destitution.
6. ZambiaThe main subsistence crop
for the majority of the poor rural population of Zambia is maize.
A massive shortfall in production has left 2.9 million (26 per
cent of the population) in immediate need of food aid.
7. MozambiqueIn Mozambique some 590,000
people (3 per cent of the population) are vulnerable to food shortages
in the Southern and Central provinces.
8. ZimbabweThe crisis in Zimbabwe
is more acute and on a larger scale than in other countries in
the region. As a result of the displacement of farmers and farm
workers and a greater reliance on commercial crops, few coping
strategies are available to the population. Over 6.7 million people
(roughly half the population) are estimated to be without sufficient
Not simply a natural disaster
9. While the food crisis has undoubtedly
been triggered by bad weather it is not simply a natural disaster.
Its major cause is the fact that many women and men in these countries
are poorer and more vulnerable than ever before. Even when times
are good, many poor farmers in these countries produce enough
food to feed themselves for only half of the year. The causes
of this increased vulnerability and therefore the crisis itself
vary in magnitude from country to country. Climate and erratic
weather, bad governance, HIV/AIDS, unsustainable debt inappropriate
agricultural reforms and collapsing public services have all contributed.
10. In Zimbabwe the crisis is more acute
than in the other countries. Maize production has plummeted in
a country once known as the region's breadbasket and the second
largest exporter of maize after South Africa. This is partly because
of drought, the worst in 20 years. Smallholders, who normally
produce 60 per cent of the country's maize, might have produced
790,000 metric tonnes more maize than they did if it had not been
for the drought (UN estimates). However, production has also slumped
on the country's 6,000 commercial farms, which are the most productive,
hectare-by-hectare, because of Fast Track land reform. Now those
farmers whose farms have been listed for take-over have been ordered
to stop farming. This will have serious implications for next
year's harvest. Estimates of the amount of cereal crops lost because
of the Fast Track programme vary from 285,000 MT (Save the Children)
to about 500,000 MT (UN estimates). The programme has also hit
production of foreign exchange earning export crops, notably tobacco
and horticultural produce. Many unemployed former commercial farm
workers form a particularly vulnerable group with few other sources
of income. The number of commercial farm workers and their dependents
is about 1.75 to two million, and the number estimated to be at
risk of starvation is said to be half a million or even more.
Inappropriate agricultural reforms
11. Another major cause of the food crisis
is the failure of agricultural policies. Even after years of World
Bank and IMF designed agricultural sector reforms, Malawi, Zambia,
and Mozambique, face chronic food insecurity. The basic problem
is that the international financial institutions designed agricultural
reforms for these countries without first carrying out a serious
assessment of their likely impact on poverty and food security.
Far from improving food security, World Bank and IMF inspired
policies have left poor farmers more vulnerable than ever.
12. The policies promoted by the World Bank
and IMF aimed to rapidly replace inefficient and corrupt state
intervention in agriculture with private sector provision. There
is no doubt that agricultural reform was needed, or that the private
sector and market should play a key role in generating agricultural
growth. Some reform was undoubtedly necessary, especially in agriculture.
The state marketing systems set up in the 1970s caused a huge
drain on government budgets and prevented the development of the
market. Moreover, they were inefficient and poorly run, often
benefiting richer farmers more than the poorer. However, despite
these deficiencies they played an important role in food security
and agricultural marketing, and with rapid liberalisation the
private sector has in most cases failed to fill this gap. The
"one size fits all" liberalisation policies implemented
have failed to lead to agricultural growth. Instead, they have
exacerbated the exclusion of the poorest from the market whilst
further undermining their food security. The UK Government shares
in the responsibility for these policies as a member of the organisations
that have recommended them. Some of the impacts of liberalisation
13. Removal of price controls: Now that
price controls in Malawi have been removed, in an average year
prices can vary by approximately 150 per cent, and are highest
when the poorest can least afford it. In the recent food crisis
the price of maize rose 400 per cent between October 2001 and
14. Collapse of input and credit supply:
The combination of currency devaluation and subsidy removal has
led to massive increases in the cost of fertiliser and other inputs.
In Malawi, for example, the cost of one bag of fertiliser has
risen by 200-250 per cent since 1990 (allowing for inflation).
It is now the equivalent of half the monthly salary of a teacher
15. Diminishing food reserves: Zambia, Malawi,
and Mozambique all used to have grain reserves to store maize
in case of food shortage. However, they were very costly to maintain,
inefficiently (sometimes corruptly) managed, and a major drain
on government resources. Under liberalisation in Zambia and Malawi,
the reserves have been scaled down to focus solely on emergency
relief. In Malawi, World Bank and IMF lending conditions and "advice"
from them and other donors ensured that the National Food Reserve
Agency (NFRA) was given the impossible role of providing disaster
relief (ie free or cheap food) while having to borrow money commercially
to purchase maize and even to pay staff salaries. This meant that
reserves had to be sold to pay off outstanding bank loans in the
absence of any government subsidy, as the IMF was adamant that
the NFRA should not become a "burden on the budget".
The spectre of HIV/AIDS
16. Undoubtedly HIV/AIDS has made the people
of Southern Africa even more vulnerable to erratic weather, bad
agricultural policies and the current food shortages. In Zimbabwe,
the UN estimates prevalence to be 33.7 per cent. In Zambia, the
life expectancy has dropped from 52 years in 1980 to 37 years
today, mainly due to HIV/AIDS. This is creating an enormous strain
on communities, which are increasingly dependent on dwindling
numbers of able-bodied and healthy workers. The pandemic places
a particular burden on women, as caring for sick family-members
falls most often to them, depriving them of opportunities to earn
an income outside the home. In Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe, it
is common for grandparents to be caring for 10 or more children,
due to AIDS-related deaths. There is also an increase in child-headed
households, as there are three million AIDS orphans in these countries.
The premature loss of parents means that agricultural skills are
often not passed down from one generation to the next; orphans
are left to farm on their own with little knowledge of agriculture.
The impact of HIV/AIDS on the agricultural sector and on communities
more generally has led to an erosion of the ability of people
to adapt to the unfolding food crisis in Southern Africa.
17. Deliver food aid: Whilst we welcome
the UK's donation to WFP of $28.4 million, the UN Consolidated
Appeal remains under-funded by more than half the amount needed.
The EU and other donor countries must deliver immediate food aid
to avert the threat of starvation for millions of people across
southern Africa. Oxfam believes that all governments have the
right to determine their policy on GM but, if there really is
no alternative, urges them to take a pragmatic approach in order
to prevent starvation.
18. Ensure food security: Donors, particularly
the World Bank and the IMF, should recognise and support Malawi,
Mozambique, and Zambia in developing transparent state-supported
systems for ensuring food security and preventing a future food
crisis. In Zimbabwe, Oxfam believes in the need for a land reform
programme which is fair, transparent, targeted at the poor, and
which is non-party political in its implementation.
19. Mandatory impact assessments: Donors,
particularly the World Bank and the IMF, should end all lending
conditions that promote further liberalisation of agriculture
in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia, pending thorough Poverty and
Social Impact Assessments (PSIA) of agricultural policy reform
in these countries which make recommendations on the best policy
choices to guarantee long-term food security and sustainable livelihoods.
20. A role for governments: Donors should
acknowledge the need for governments to play an active role in
developing market reforms that support rural development. Appropriate
policies could include land reform, agricultural diversification,
targeted farm input and credit supply, the development of marketing
infrastructure and price stabilisation.
21. Suspend debt repayments: Malawi, Mozambique
and Zambia should be granted an immediate suspension of their
HIPC debt repayments.
22. Support the "Development Box":
The UK and other industrialised countries should support the inclusion
of a "Development Box" in the WTO Agreement on Agriculture,
which will allow poor countries to protect, through tariffs and
support through targeted subsidies, key staple crops with the
objective of ensuring food security and protecting rural livelihoods.
23. The effective integration of HIV/AIDS
strategies into national poverty-reduction plans: This will include
the full costing of plans, realistic financing schemes, and the
development of transparent and accountable public financing systems
to ensure that commitments are reflected in national budgets and
medium-term expenditure frameworks.
24. Oxfam GB is planning to work in three
districts in the badly-affected Southern Region: Mulanje, Thyolo
25. Ensuring adequate access to food to
meet immediate needs: Last month, Oxfam GB carried out its first
round of food distributions in Malawi. World Food Programme (WFP)-supplied
maize grains were distributed to 11,400 people from five distribution
points in Mulanje district. A second round of distributions in
Mulanje district, targeting a larger number of people, will begin
on 18 September. As with the previous distribution, committees
made up of community members have helped to ensure that food is
distributed to those who need it most. Oxfam GB plans to continue
distributions of WFP food in Mulanje until April next year.
26. Oxfam GB is currently carrying out a
four-week survey to assess nutritional needs in the districts
of Mulanje and Phalombe (Medecins Sans Frontieres are looking
at needs in Thyolo). The survey began on 12 September and is being
funded by UNICEF. Findings will be shared with other agencies
and the Malawian authorities involved in the food crisis response.
27. Support to enable communities to increase
food production in the short and medium-term: Next month, Oxfam
GB will be beginning a main-cropping progamme in Mulanje, Thyolo
and Phalombe districts. There are plans to distribute seeds, seedlings
and fertilisers, along with 450 water pumps and 7,500 watering
cans. 90,000 people will benefit from this distribution.
28. Lobbying and advocacy work at national,
regional and global levels, to address the causes, and ensure
the quality of the humanitarian response to the crisis: Oxfam
GB is involved in protection work focusing on abuses against women
29. Ensuring adequate access to food to
meet immediate needs. Oxfam GB is currently finishing distributions
of 220 metric tonnes (MT) of maize to 11,047 people in five wards
of the northern part of Zhishavane district (Midlands province).
Stocks of 14MT of oil, and 29MT of sugar beans will be distributed
this week. The food currently being distributed should last people
for the months of September and October.
30. Oxfam GB is also funding partners to
carry out small-scale feeding programmes. Two local partners are
carrying out supplementary feeding for 6,000 children of displaced
farm workers and orphans. Other partners are carrying out feeding
programmes for 2,000 orphans, and up to 4,000 children in semi-urban
areas of Harare. Oxfam GB is also supporting a network of Zimbabwean
NGOs who are monitoring the food-security situation across the
country. Novib (the Dutch member of Oxfam International) is supporting
a partner to carry out supplementary feeding (porridge fortified
with vitamins) to 45,000 children of farm workersmeeting
one-third of the children's calorific needs. There are plans to
expand this programme to reach 200,000 children in East, West
and Central Mashonaland, and in Manicaland. Another Novib partner
is providing supplementary feeding in the form of a nutritious
drink (mahewu) to nine out of a target of 30 schools. The programme
began on 11 September and will be completed by 25 September, and
there are plans for it to reach 13,500 children.
31. Support to enable communities to increase
food production in the short- and medium-term Stocks have been
identified by Oxfam GB for planned distributions of seeds and
fertilisers in Midlands and Masvingo provinces. This work, along
with work to support the cultivation of vegetable gardens, should
begin before the end of this month. Work will be carried out in
areas of Midlands province where food distributions are taking
place, and in areas of Masvingo where Oxfam GB is working on development
32. A response by Oxfam GB will focus on
the Southern and Western provinces (the most seriously affected)
covering six districts in total: Monze, Mazabuka, Choma and Siavonga
in Southern Province and Shang'ombo and Senanga in Western Province.
33. Ensuring adequate access to food to
meet immediate needs. Oxfam GB is planning to purchase 10 trucks
to transport WFP supplied food from Katima Mulilo, on the Zambian/Namibian
border, to WFP partners in Shang'ombo District. 4,000 MT of food
will be transported to the Nangweshi refugee camp where it will
be distributed by CARE and 3,655 MT will be transported to rural
areas in Shang'ombo where it will be distributed by Catholic Relief
Services. The trucks will be purchased in South Africa and will
be driven to Zambia, where drivers will attend a two-day workshop
on HIV/AIDS awareness.
34. Support to enable communities to increase
food production in the short- and medium-term. In Siavonga District,
in the Southern Province, Oxfam GB is working with Harvest Help
to help subsistence farmers to grow a second crop for harvest
in three months time. Much of this vegetable crop will be sold
by the 11,000 beneficiaries in order to gain an extra income.
A distribution of 75,000 seedlings is now more than 50 per cent
completed, and 10 pumps and 25 irrigation kits have been installed
to prepare the soil for planting. In Senanga, Oxfam GB is supporting
Keepers Foundation Zambia, which has just completed a distribution
of 11MT of Maize seed, and is now helping 2,200 farmers to drain
flooded fields in preparation for planting this seed. A total
of 5,500 tools are being distributed in sets, which include machetes,
sickles, spades, shovels and hoes. These tools will be shared
by farmers who will use them to dig small drainage canals around
areas of land where the maize seed will be planted. 13,200 people
will benefit from this project.
35. Integration of public health measures
to maximise and ensure the impact of food intervention. Only 38
per cent of the population of Zambia has access to a clean water
supply. Oxfam GB is taking the lead on creating a database containing
information on water sources, and agency plans for borehole drilling
and repair, in the districts where we are working. Oxfam GB has
plans to drill 25 boreholes across Choma, Monze, Mazabuka, Siavonga
and Senanga and will hand over the co-ordination role as soon
as a suitable agency has been identified.
36. In Mozambique, up to 500,000 people
are vulnerable to food shortages in the Southern and Central Provinces.
Following a food security assessment carried out by Oxfam GB in
June this year, a team made up of a project manager and a health
expert has just completed a 12-day food security assessment, covering
four provinces in the southern part of the country: Maputo, Gaza,
Sofala and Inhambane. Preliminary findings indicate that food
security, followed by HIV/AIDS, is the major problem affecting
37. The first harvest this year in the south
of the country was very poor and although the second crop, harvested
this month, has been normal, it will contribute only to about
15 per cent of the total estimated food needs. Pockets of real
need have been identified in this part of the country, and suitable
interventions would include the reinforcement of wells used for
irrigation, and restocking of small livestock. This work should
be strongly linked to HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. There
is also a need to examine the feasibility of transporting food
from the north of the country to the south. In the south, UN and
government figures state that there is a shortfall of 70,000 MT
of maize; but in the north of the country there is a surplus of
100,000 MT, which is also non-GM. However the government has concerns
about the cost of transportation of this maize.
38. Oxfam GB is currently considering an
intervention in Mozambique depending on the outcome of a detailed
examination of the assessment results. The work would focus on
food security and support of livelihoods, and would be integrated
with public health work. Programme activities could include digging
and protecting wells, repairing and constructing water-harvesting
systems, distributing seeds and tools, hygiene kits and mosquito
nets, and livestock restocking.