- The number of people needing food assistance in Zambia has now climbed to at least 1.7 million due to crop failure and rising food prices. As the food crisis grows more severe, young rural girls are increasingly found in urban nightclubs, hoping to earn a petty revenue for their family by selling sex. AIDS rates are expected to explode.
The UN's World Food programme (WFP) this weekend warned of a growing food and social crisis in Zambia, which is one of the countries most severely hit by the Southern African drought. Rural families are already unable to cope with the lacking access to food and social structures are reported to dissolve.
Maize prices have risen by up to 60 percent from a year ago, pushing this basic cereal beyond the reach of the poorest people, according to WFP. By know, at least 1.7 million Zambians are dependent on food aid, which only is arriving very slowly.
The seriousness of the food crisis in Zambia is illustrated by the crisis management of rural families. District Councillors are now reporting that young girls from Zambian villages are "increasingly being found in nightclubs, selling themselves for sex to earn cash to buy food."
The current crisis is further exacerbated by high HIV/AIDS prevalence rates with one in five Zambians infected by the virus, WFP notes. The growth of prostitution by young rural girls can only be another blow to the country's efforts to limit the AIDS pandemic.
AIDS is already having a strong impact on the rural economy. Life expectancy in Zambia has fallen to a mere 37 years while agricultural production at household level has been crippled because people are either too sick to work or families are forced to spend meagre assets on medicines and funerals rather than seeds and fertiliser.
Household size has also grown significantly in recent years as the virus takes its toll on family units. There are now more than 1.5 million orphans in Zambia, many of whom have been absorbed by relatives, placing an ever greater burden on limited resources.
Another sign of the inability to cope with the food crisis in rural Zambia is the distress sale of livestock, which have increased significantly in the last month. One cow now is fetching half its normal worth in cash or four 90-kg sacks of maize. The price of chickens has plummeted to a third of their usual value.
"Most people have nothing left to sell," the WFP warns. In some areas, meals have been drastically reduced and there are reports of migration to urban centres in search of food, the UN agency adds.
"Villages are on the brink of widespread starvation and there is very little food aid on the way for the next six months unless the international community steps in now with cash to stave off a humanitarian catastrophe," David Stevenson of WFP Zambia told the press. "We have a limited amount of time to buy food in the region and get it to the hungriest before the harshest months of the lean season," he added, addressing slow donors.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.