Charities band together over African famine

Britain's leading aid charities will launch a joint appeal today to save the lives of more than 14 million people facing starvation in seven southern African countries.

Aid workers say they fear a humanitarian disaster as time runs out for the victims of drought, floods, political instability and poor harvests in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and Angola.

Judith Lewis, the World Food Programme's (WFP) director for east and southern Africa, said the "window of opportunity to avert a major crisis was closing".

She told The Independent last night that despite new offers of aid from non-traditional donors – including $1m (£6.4m) from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – the WFP appeal launched at the beginning of the month had only secured 22 percent of required resources. It is the first time that the Mormons have contributed to a WFP appeal.

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which unites 13 leading British aid agencies such as the British Red Cross, Oxfam, Save the Children and Christian Aid to co-ordinate and maximise income from the British public at times of major disasters overseas, is to spearhead the campaign to supply emergency provisions and agricultural assistance to those countries in desperate need.

Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the DEC, said: "We are seeking to fund a major aid operation in a bid to avert a catastrophic famine in the region over the coming months. The appeal will help fund health programmes, distribution of seeds and tools to subsistence farmers, and food aid for the most vulnerable.

"There is still time to prevent the worst case scenario of death on a massive scale."

The operation, which has the backing of Tony Blair will work in conjunction with similar appeals in the United States and other countries.

Mr Blair said yesterday: "I am very concerned by the prospect of serious food shortages in southern Africa. That is why the Government has committed nearly £60m in aid this year to alleviate them.

"I welcome the fact that the Disasters Emergency Committee is pooling the resources of 13 of the UK's development and aid organisations ... It is a tribute to the determination of the NGO [non-governmental organisation] sector in the country to work together to help tackle this very grave situation."

Ms Lewis said she was hopeful of a "major contribution" from the EU, following talks in Brussels as part of an intensive lobbying effort.

The scale of the problem has been made worse by the impact of a long drought – and floods in some parts – along with the ravages of Aids on the rural workforce. James Morris, director of the WFP, warned that people were "walking a thin tightrope between life and death".

Zimbabwe is one of the worst hit. The Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, put the blame on President Robert Mugabe. "The principal cause is not the drought but the policies of Mugabe's regime," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: £20000 - £25000 per annum + c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a number ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Sales Consultant - OTE £45,000

£15000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you want to work for an exci...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food