“This hunger crisis is reaching unprecedented proportions (in southern Africa) and our observations on the ground show that it will get even worse “, warns Lola Castro, regional manager of the World Food Program (WFP) in a press release.
For the past five years, the southern tip of the African continent has suffered from a significant deficit in rains, aggravated by the repetition of the Niño phenomenon, which has weighed on agricultural crops in countries, most of which are very poor. Rising temperatures also cause increasingly violent storms or cyclones.
→ EXPLANATION. El Niño plays a major role in drought
Cyclone Idai in 2019 caused catastrophic floods in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, claiming more than a thousand lives, millions of people affected and massive damage, including to food supplies.
Greater global warming
“The cyclone season has started, we cannot afford to repeat the damage from last year”, said Lola Castro. According to the WFP, temperatures are increasing in the region at a rate twice that observed on the rest of the planet. Again this year, the forecast anticipates a dry and hot weather, suggesting a new poor harvest.
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Many families across the region have already been forced to cut one of their daily meals and only survive with emergency aid.
Half of the affected population in Zimbabwe
This year, WFP plans to help 8.3 million food insecure people in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Malawi.
The situation is particularly worrying in Zimbabwe where WFP estimates that nearly 8 million – half the population – are at risk of starvation.
“Zimbabwe is one of the four countries in the world with the highest food insecurity”, said the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, in late November.
The country has been stuck for twenty years in a catastrophic economic crisis that President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who succeeded the autocrat Robert Mugabe at the end of 2017, has failed to stem.
The UN needs $ 284 million
For months, the population has suffered shortages of recurring basic products (flour, medicines, fuels) and massive power cuts that have made everyday life a nightmare. A year ago, the rise in gas prices had caused deadly riots, severely suppressed by the regime.
Other countries most at risk include Lesotho, Namibia and Zambia, where the Red Cross recently estimated 2.3 million (out of a total of 17 million) the number of people in situation “Severe food insecurity”.
The UN agency reiterated its urgent appeal to the international community and donors on Thursday, saying it currently has only 205 of the $ 489 million needed to fund its emergency aid projects.
“If we do not receive the necessary funds, we will have no choice but to help fewer people who need it, by giving them less”, concluded Lola Castro.