Written Answers. - Overseas Development Aid.

Joan Burton

Question:

16 Ms Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the future action the Government proposes to take in response to the imminent threat of famine in Southern Africa. [14814/02]

Brendan Howlin

Question:

43 Mr. Howlin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to serious concern expressed by relief organisations regarding the threat of major famine now facing Southern Africa; the steps the Government is taking either unilaterally or through international agencies to prevent possible mass loss of life; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14829/02]

Pat Breen

Question:

71 Mr. P. Breen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps the Government has taken to help relieve the growing food crisis in Malawi. [14999/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 16, 43 and 71 together.

The Government has been actively responding to the unfolding food crisis in Southern Africa. This crisis is already having a severe impact on the vulnerable people of Malawi and threatens millions of others across Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The latest indicators are that it will worsen in the weeks ahead.

An initial allocation of €1.2 million has already been made to help cover immediate needs in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Ireland Aid is working closely with Irish NGOs and other implementing partners on the challenges posed by this crisis and the Government's response may be expected to deepen considerably over the coming weeks. We are monitoring the situation closely through our missions in Zambia, Mozambique, Lesotho and South Africa.

This latest crisis is the outcome of unusually dry climatic conditions which have resulted in crop failure and low crop yields over consecutive growing seasons. Poor governance and the mismanagement of grain reserves have also played a role. Regional grain stocks in Southern Africa, which were already drawn upon to meet last year's shortages, are currently at exceptionally low levels. A joint assessment mission by the World Food Programme, WFP, and the Food and Agricultural Organisation, FAO, estimates that 7.7 million people will require food aid during June to August while 12.8 million will need assistance by March of next year, almost one quarter of them in Malawi. An estimated 1.2 million tonnes of food aid will be required to provide emergency food assistance to the most vulnerable households. Poor nutrition, it may be noted, also contributes to the high prevalence of HIV-AIDS in the region.

Of the initial €1.2 million provided by the Government in response to the crisis, €0.7 million has gone to emergency programmes being implemented in Malawi by Concern and the World Food Programme. The remaining €0.5 million is being provided to help those who have been identified by the International Federation of the Red Cross as most immediately at risk, including in Zambia and Zimbabwe. Further emergency responses in Malawi and the other afflicted countries are being prepared by Ireland Aid with its Irish NGO and other implementing partners.

The European Commission is providing €1.5 million through the European Humanitarian Aid Office, ECHO, for immediate measures supporting Malawi's network of nutritional rehabilitation units. As a direct result of the current crisis, the Commission is also supplying Malawi with an additional 95,000 tonnes of food aid worth €29 million. This emergency aid will be implemented over a period of 18 months. It complements the Commission's €42 million, three-year food security programme, which is helping to develop longer term approaches to Malawi's food needs. Ireland and our European partners are also paying particular attention to the situation in Zimbabwe, which accounts for 56% of the total emergency food aid requirement in the region.
The Government is working closely with other members of the international community to develop strategies on how immediate food needs may best be addressed at both the national and regional levels. A Declaration on the Food Crisis in Southern Africa was adopted at the EU Development Council in Brussels on 30 May at Ireland's initiative. We also urged a strong and early international response to the crisis at the recent World Food Summit in Rome. I raised the matter with other EU Ministers at the meeting of the General Affairs Council in Luxembourg on 17 June.
Ireland also took part in the special Regional Meeting on Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa hosted jointly by the WFP and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Johannesburg on 6-7 June. This was an important meeting which brokered agreement on a regional emergency operation which will have effect from July. While the main focus was on the humanitarian aspects of the current crisis, the governance issues contributing to this and the need to firmly establish longer-term food security mechanisms across Southern Africa were also emphasised at the meeting. The Government will support the regional emergency appeal which is being prepared by the WFP following this meeting.
In the critical weeks and months ahead, the Government will substantially deepen our support for the vulnerable populations of Malawi and the other countries of Southern Africa. At the same time, we will seek to ensure that the necessary sectoral, management and other reforms are put in place to address the underlying causes of food insecurity in Southern Africa.