More than 260,000 need food aid

More than a quarter of a million people will need food aid in the southern and western parts of Zambia as prolonged drought continues to erode people's ability to cope.

In its latest situation report the World Food Programme (WFP) said "food insecurity in some districts remains poor, and preliminary calculations indicate that approximately 262,000 people in 16 districts will require food aid from February to May".

WFP public information officer Lena Savelli said an initial vulnerability assessment report indicated that the food security situation "has remained bad, and 12,554 mt of relief food - cereals mainly - will be required" in the affected districts. "It's mainly the Southern and Western provinces - these are provinces that are chronically food insecure, mostly because of drought."

The organisation was already working on agricultural recovery programmes and training projects in these areas. "We have been teaching them conservation farming, [conducting] training in HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness, and doing road rehabilitation projects. So, for each activity a farmer completes, they get food in exchange, [which] enables them to create assets and improve their food security situation," Savelli explained.

WFP's report said some 62,500 farmers were engaged in these food-for-assets and training projects, with spin-offs for their families "so there's about 300,000 people who will benefit from these programmes," Savelli added.

An urban intervention programme was also feeding 60,400 vulnerable children in 179 community schools and drop-in centres. The situation report noted that "39,000 host families are also benefiting from the programme".

Zambia has largely recovered from the food security crisis that saw 2.9 million people in need of food aid during 2002/03.