Thursday, March 15, 2007

Making matters worse: A news story about Swaziland's projected food shortages

For those who read my previous entries about severe malnutrition (Children should not starve to death, Improv and starvation, and Rounding with Dr. Akingbe.), you will not be surprised that Swaziland has problems with food security. But, you may be surprised to learn that we are currently bracing for possibility of the country’s worst food shortage in 25 years as a result of unusually dry weather over past months.

As reported in a recent article from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 2007 has brought Swaziland heavy winds, hailstorms and a scorching dry spell, but little water. While the dry Lowveld and Lubombo Plateau are accustomed to this type of abuse, this year the growing conditions for the entire country have been compromised.

The price of maize has already risen by 80% and will likely double before the May harvest.

The World Food Programme (WFP), which has supported a quarter of Swaziland's 1 million people with food assistance since 2002, plans to assess the impact of the dry spells on the national food supply in the weeks ahead.

Ben Nsibandze, Director of the National Disaster Relief Task Force, expects the impact to be huge, and predicts that maize will disappear from store shelves nationwide.

"Widespread food shortages will be experienced, particularly by the most vulnerable communities," he told a press conference.

Of course, no discussion of disaster and vulnerability can leave out the fact that, long before dry weather killed the crops, HIV killed a large fraction of Swaziland’s farmers.

Nobody knows this as well as Frank. The following quote ends the article: "I am the only able-bodied man in my family. I have to look after my two brothers' fields now…The crops are so scarce this year, it's not worth it. The crows will get what little is left."

For the entire article, please see the following link: "Maize prices shoot up as food shortages loom "


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