Aid agencies are warning that two food crises are looming in Africa and claim they are engaged in a race against time to generate donations.
The British Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children are contacting news editors in the national media, urging them to find a way to cover the complex situation that is creating food scarcity in southern Africa.
World Emergency Relief has also warned of shortages in northern Uganda, caused by a 200 per cent rise in the price of maize since the new year. Alex Haxton, director of operations at WER, said the situation in camps for people displaced by internal conflict was "already beyond critical".
"Everywhere you look, there are severely malnourished children and people in desperate need of humanitarian assistance," he said. WER is to launch an emergency appeal for funds.
Leigh Daynes, head of media at the Red Cross, returned from southern Africa earlier this month. "One real challenge is that media coverage of the disaster often drives the public response," he said. "Sadly, southern Africa has not been high profile because it is very complicated."
Daynes explained that many people in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi have not recovered from failed harvests in 2002 and 2003 and that this, combined with erratic rains and the "crippling problem" of HIV/Aids striking the working population, is creating the crisis.
Daynes said: "We need to intervene now to keep people alive, but this kind of situation doesn't lend itself to television footage."
According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, donor governments have provided just 20 per cent of the £17m required.