JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – The United Nations World Food Program said Thursday that a record 45 million people in the Southern African Development Community of 16 nations faced increasing hunger after repeated droughts, widespread flooding and economic disorder .
FILE PHOTO: Victims of Cyclone Idai receive food aid at Siverstream Estates in Chipinge, Zimbabwe, March 24, 2019. REUTERS / Philimon Bulawayo / File photo
Southern Africa faces a severe drought, as climate change wreaks havoc on impoverished countries that are already struggling to cope with extreme natural disasters, such as Cyclone Idai that devastated Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in 2019.
Zimbabwe, which was once the granary of southern Africa, is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by rising inflation and a shortage of food, fuel, medicines and electricity.
“This hunger crisis is on a scale that we have not seen before and the evidence shows that it will get worse,” WFP Regional Director for South Africa Lola Castro said in a statement.
“The annual cyclone season has begun and we simply cannot afford to repeat the devastation caused by the unprecedented storms of last year.”
The agency plans to provide assistance during the “famine season” to 8.3 million people struggling with hunger levels of “crisis” or “emergency” in eight of the most affected countries, including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Madagascar , Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Malawi
To date, WFP has secured only $ 205 million of the $ 489 million needed for this assistance and has been forced to rely heavily on domestic loans to ensure that food reaches those in need, he said.
In December, the United Nations said it was obtaining food assistance for 4.1 million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the population of a country where shortages are being exacerbated by runaway inflation and climate-induced drought.
“Zimbabwe is suffering the worst emergency of hunger in a decade, with 7.7 million people, half of the population, severely insecure of food,” the agency said.
In Zambia and Lesotho, affected by drought, 20% of the population faces a food crisis, as do 10% of Namibians.
Castro said that if the agency does not receive the necessary funds, it will have no choice but to help less than those in need and with less.
Nqobile Dludla reports; Edition by Jon Boyle and Giles Elgood