It was a happy day for the good people of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) when Simon Cammelbeeck, country director of World Food Programme-Zambia, waved off a convoy of trucks carrying 900 tons of humanitarian relief maize to Malawi and Zimbabwe.
Joining him at the convoy’s ‘start line’ and waving the Zambian flag was Patrick Kangwa, permanent secretary of Zambia’s Disaster Mitigation and Management Unit which falls under the office of the Vice President of Zambia. The trucks set off from the Mwembeshi depot of the Food Reserve Agency in Zambia
Readers might recall past stories carried in FleetWatch where we outlined the concern of the UN WFP of the effects of the El Nino weather pattern on food security in the southern African region. The WFP stated that an estimated 13 million people are facing hunger following prolonged dry spells that led to a poor harvest last year.
Worst affected in the region by last year’s poor rains are Malawi (2.8 million people facing hunger), Madagascar (nearly 1.9 million people) and Zimbabwe (1.5 million) where last year’s harvest was reduced by half compared to the previous year because of massive crop failure.
WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience. Each year, WFP assists some 80 million people in around 80 countries.
Prior to the convoy setting off, Cammelbeeck gave a speech in which he gave credit, first and foremost, to Zambia’s farmers for their hard work and secondly to the government of Zambia for its stewardship of the agricultural sector.
“Together, farmers and Government have established this country as a grain basket of southern Africa and currently the only country in the region with a maize surplus,” he said.
He added that the success of Zambian agriculture has arguably never been as important as it is this year when southern Africa faces its worst drought in 35 years and 13 million people across the region face a food crisis. “They need the cargo of these trucks most urgently. This food is vital to the lives of millions of people, especially women and children,” he said.
Funding for this food assistance has come from 12 countries, the largest portion directly from the Government of Malawi with financial support from the IMF. Other important donors include the USA, Sweden and the Netherlands.
He also paid tribute to the magnanimous gesture made by Zambia given that Zambia itself has not been spared from the drought. “One million Zambians are also in need of assistance before the next harvest and we fully appreciate that the high demand for maize in the region has obliged the Government of Zambia to introduce measures to control exports so as to ensure Zambia’s food security.
“However, rest assured that the maize that flows through this humanitarian window will go to those who need it most and who need it now, because they already have nothing,” said Cammelbeeck who then wished the truck drivers a safe journey as they set off for the Chirundu and Mwami borders.
FleetWatch lifts its hat to all parties involved in this magnificent show of support for the people who are suffering in the SADC region. It really serves to uplift the heart. As for the truckers, well…without you guys, none of this would be possible. We salute you!