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Foreign Assistance: Sustained Efforts Needed to Help Southern Africa Recover from Food Crisis.

GAO-03-644 June 25, 2003

The southern Africa food crisis threatened 15.3 million people in six countries (Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) with famine. GAO was asked to look at (1) factors that contributed to the crisis, (2) how well the populations' needs were met, (3) obstacles to the food aid effort, and (4) challenges to emerging from crisis.

Multiple factors contributed to the food crisis. Erratic weather reduced maize (corn) production. A poorly functioning agricultural sector caused food supply shortages. Government actions--including the sale of Malawi's grain reserve and Zimbabwe's land reform--further cut available food. Widespread poverty contributed to food insecurity and the HIV/AIDS epidemic exacerbated food shortages by reducing the labor force. Food aid averted famine, but the overall response did not prevent widespread hunger. About 93 percent of the total cereal gap--the difference between domestic needs and production--was met by the end of the April 2002-March 2003 crisis period. However, food aid deliveries fell short in several countries, and vulnerable households had limited ability to purchase commercial maize. Slow donations, poor infrastructure, and concerns about biotech food were major obstacles to an effective response. Excluding the United States, most donors did not make sufficient, timely donations to the World Food Program. Poor transportation systems and storage facilities hampered efficient food delivery. Zambia rejected food aid because of concerns regarding biotech food; other countries required milling maize for the same reason. This compromised the food aid pipeline given the United States was the region's key donor and its aid may contain biotech food. Declining investments in agriculture and the HIV/AIDS epidemic pose challenges to emerging from crisis into sustained recovery. U.N. and U.S. officials cite the need to reverse declining trends in agricultural investments by international financing organizations, national governments, and donors. Without a strategy that integrates, among other things, agricultural development, the impact of HIV/AIDS, and natural disaster management, food crises will recur.
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Publication:General Accounting Office Reports & Testimony
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Words:323
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