The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said on Tuesday that it bought more than 2 million tons of food to help hungry people in Southern Africa.
WFP is currently scaling up its operations in the worst affected countries, particularly Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland.
The food agency has spent almost 430 million U.S. dollars since southern Africa was first hit by recurring food crises in 2002. The funds were used to purchase 2,020,000 metric tons of cereals, pulses, vegetable oil, corn-soya blend, salt and sugar in eight countries across the region, mainly South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.
"These purchases have provided WFP with the means to help millions of needy people," said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran, speaking from the agency's headquarters in Rome.
"At the same time, buying local has been both cost efficient as well as extremely effective in supporting small-scale farmers and stimulating local agricultural economies," the director added.
Sheeran said WFP has already bought more food in Malawi and Mozambique this year than ever before and, given additional cash contributions, purchases could also hit record levels in Zambia.
With parts of southern Africa facing severe food shortages once again, WFP is aiming to assist over 4 million vulnerable people across the region before the next main harvest in April 2008.