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Droughts, floods threaten southern Africa – WFP

by Haruna Gimba
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By Muhammad Amaan

The World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that droughts and floods in southern Africa stemming from El Niño have left millions of people food insecure.

WFP Executive Director, Ms Cindy McCain, gave the warning during a recent visit to Zambia – the epicentre of the crisis.

“The droughts have destroyed harvests in areas where 70 per cent of the population depends on agriculture for survival.

“I met farmers who usually grow enough to feed their families and communities. This year they harvested nothing. Now imagine a similar scenario for millions of people throughout Southern Africa, and we have a humanitarian catastrophe,” McCain said in a statement.

Though the latest El Niño weather pattern is nearing its end, droughts caused by the weather-changing cycle will have repercussions for months ahead.

Temperatures have dramatically increased resulting in the driest February in decades in the region which caused a 20 per cent reduction in rainfall necessary for crop growth.

According to WFP, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi have been impacted the hardest and have all declared states of drought disaster. They risk significant crop loss with 40 and 80 per cent of their maize harvests decimated.

Recognising that 61 million people were affected by El Niño, heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) launched a humanitarian appeal for 5.5 billion dollars to complement the internal resources of the impacted countries.

“I’m asking the international community to join us and step up now. We can’t ask millions to wait for the next harvest season – a year from now – to put food on their tables.

“These families need our support today while we help to build a more resilient future,” McCain said.

Though WFP has responded to this crisis, the programme still needs 409 million dollars for six months of aid to benefit 4.8 million people in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

“WFP has been working with governments and partners to help prepare communities for climate disasters before they hit.

“WFP unlocked over 14 million dollars of anticipatory finance to aid over 1.2 million people expected to be impacted by El Niño in August 2023,” she said.

They have also offered support to communities in Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe by providing early warning alerts on “weather risks, anticipatory cash transfers, drought-resistant seeds, agricultural training, and improved water sources.”

WFP continues to work with governments to protect communities affected by climate shocks and in just a few weeks, will distribute about 10 million dollars in insurance pay-outs to nearly 280,000 affected people over the coming six months.

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