HC Deb 22 January 2003 vol 398 cc313-4W
Lynne Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will make a statement on the impact of the failure of the Government of Mozambique to declare a national emergency on international efforts to assist in providing for the needs of people unable to meet their food needs up to the next harvest period in March 2003. [92607]

Clare Short

The current situation in Mozambique should be seen in the context of the country's increased ability to meet its food needs and respond to such a crisis and the Government's legitimate caution about undermining coping strategies or risking donor fatigue.

Food production has recovered since the end of the long war in Mozambique, from 80 per cent. dependency on food aid in 1992 to now only importing about 20 per cent. of its food. The Government of Mozambique have been able to respond early to the threat of the current drought. For example the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development provided seeds and other agricultural inputs to drought-affected families, and has begun to rehabilitate small dams and irrigation schemes. The Government are conscious of the risks of large handouts of food aid contributing to weakening local self-help initiatives as people abandon traditional coping mechanisms.

Mozambique is subject to recurrent natural disasters and has frequently been forced to declare national emergencies, most recently in the floods of 2000–01 and 2001–02. The current drought affects about 3 per cent. of the population, nearly all of them in sparsely populated, semi-arid areas of the country. In this context, the Government have not declared an emergency due to legitimate concerns about donor fatigue and a perception that the current crisis forms part of a long-term trend to increased vulnerability in the drought areas, which cannot be solved with short-term aid alone.

The lack of a formal declaration of emergency has made it difficult for some donors to mobilise emergency funds, and Mozambique has not been able to form part of the Consolidated Appeal Process or the regional appeal of the Federation of the Red Cross. UN efforts in providing co-ordination services to humanitarian stakeholders have been hampered and there has been limited mapping of humanitarian programmes, leading to poor information about gaps in the delivery of assistance and difficulties with the identification of sensible projects.

However, although the Government have not made a formal joint appeal, they have requested help from individual UN agencies, eg WFP (food aid), UNICEF (supplementary feeding) and FAO (seeds and other agricultural interventions). DFID has contributed to supporting these.