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Southern Africa Fights Drought of the Century

Even as world attention has been focused on halting war and famine in Somalia, people in southern Africa are finding new ways to cooperate in getting food to those who need it most

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THE first phase of the biggest drought relief effort ever mounted is helping to avert a human disaster in the 12 countries of southern Africa.

The regional drought, which came at a time of extreme hardship caused by economic recession, austerity programs, and civil wars, has ravaged the regional economy and drained most of the resources earmarked for vital development work. Millions of people have been displaced from their homes. And southern Africa has seen a bigger crop loss than that faced by Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa in 1984 and 1985.

But the relief effort - the result of painstaking planning and regional and international cooperation on an unprecedented scale - has staved off the threat of famine and had a constructive influence beyond the distribution of short-term aid.

Over the past eight months, more than 7.7 million tons of grain have been delivered by an estimated 350 ships through nine regional ports - a volume of food relief nearly five times the amount dispatched in the mid-1980s to the Horn. (Figures throughout this report are in short tons.)

"The good news is that we have been ahead of the drought from the start," says Ted Morse, director of the United States Agency for International Development for Zimbabwe and Southern Africa programs. "By getting ahead of the drought we are preventing it becoming a famine. So we won't get the problems of southern Sudan, Somalia, and Ethiopia."

The 12 countries affected are South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Angola, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, and Madagascar.

Apart from averting widespread disaster, the relief effort has:

* Required close regional cooperation, and thus has played a significant role in breaking down political barriers and easing historical tensions between South Africa and its black-ruled neighbors.


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