MOZAMBIQUE: Donors and drought go west
Maputo, 3 March 2009 (IRIN) - Unless March brings good rain, up to 100,000 people in Mozambique's western province of Tete will need emergency food assistance, but the weather forecast is sunny and dry.
"The rains stopped falling regularly and in the past three weeks there has been no rainfall at all," World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Peter Transburg told IRIN.
Small-scale farmers in Tete Province, which borders Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi, have been hit particularly hard. "Should the situation persist in the next three weeks, it will become critical," Transburg said.
Mozambique's meteorological service (INAM) said the next few days might bring slight relief, but was generally not optimistic: "We have hardly recorded any rainfall in Tete over the past few weeks and our March forecast shows this wet season is going to record lower rainfall than that recorded last year - that's a drought situation," the head of INAM, Mussa Mustapha, told IRIN.
|Our March forecast shows this wet season is going to record lower rainfall than that recorded last year - that's a drought situation
Mozambique's southern provinces - where up to 356,000 people were already facing hunger by December 2008, according to WFP - have received below average rainfall for the past three years.
Although the drought situation in the south has traditionally received more attention, donors have increasingly started looking at Tete, where "the situation has reached critical levels," Transburg said.
Towards the end of February a diplomatic delegation, including ambassadors from United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, travelled to Tete to assess the situation.
Todd Chapman, the Charge d'Affaires at the US Embassy, said many people in the province were facing poor harvests despite their proximity to large water bodies.
"Just 30 kilometres from one of the water reservoirs behind the Cahora Bassa Dam, we visited a rural farming community suffering from lack of water. This points to a larger need to bring irrigation schemes to these areas - irrigation schemes can produce more food, corn and water melons," he told IRIN.
"Many people in the area are reducing food intake and they are being forced to sell assets. Last year we provided more than US$3 million to aid agencies, such as the WFP, to help with food assistance," Chapman said.
Transburg noted, "Unfortunately [WFP] resources can reach about 54,000 people and we do not have resources to meet the remainder until April. About 3,000 tons is needed for Tete alone, and that is roughly equivalent to US$3 million.