45 million people in the 16-nation Southern African Development Community are facing worsening hunger following calamities such as drought and flooding, as well as economic disarray, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said on Thursday, January 16, 2020.
Zimbabwe, in particular, is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade. The country that was once the breadbasket of Southern Africa is now facing shortages aggravated by runaway inflation and drought.
"This hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve not seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to get worse," said Lola Castro, the WFP’s Regional Director for Southern Africa. "The annual cyclone season has begun and we simply cannot afford a repeat of the devastation caused by last year’s unprecedented storms."
"While our most pressing priority are the millions in need of immediate support, building the resilience of the many more threatened by increasingly frequent and destructive droughts and storms is absolutely essential."
Now, the agency plans to provide 'lean season' assistance to 8.3 million people struggling under crisis or emergency levels of hunger in eight of the worst-affected countries, including Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
WFP has also secured 205 million dollars of the 489 million needed for this aid. The agency said it had been forced to resort to internal borrowing to make sure that food reaches those in need.
In Zambia and drought-hit Lesotho, 20% of the population is experiencing a food crisis, as well as 10% of Namibians.
"If we don’t receive the necessary funding, we’ll have no choice but to assist fewer of those most in need, and with less," said Castro. "Nor will we be able to adequately expand longer-term activities vital to meaningfully combatting the existential emergency that is climate change."
In December, the UN said it was securing food assistance for 4.1 million people in Zimbabwe.
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