WFP: Zambia faces crisis as drought devastates crops

The World Food Programme (WFP) has issued a stark warning about a “heartbreaking” situation in Zambia, where severe drought caused by El Nino has left millions on the verge of starvation.

“This year they harvested nothing,” said WFP Executive Director Cindy McCain, highlighting the dire situation after visiting farming families.

The drought has devastated crops in Zambia, the epicenter of the crisis, where 70% of the population relies on agriculture for survival.

McCain described the situation as a “humanitarian catastrophe” not just for Zambia, but for the entire region. With neighboring countries also experiencing significant crop failures, she pleaded for immediate global support.

This drought is the worst Zambia has ever faced, prompting President Hakainde Hichilema to appeal for nearly $900 million in aid last month.

The WFP estimates $409 million is urgently needed in the first six months to assist roughly 48 million people across Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

These three countries, which have all declared national disasters, have seen a staggering 40-80% loss in their maize harvests.

This poses a major threat to food security in a region where maize contributes nearly 20% of daily calorie intake.

The culprit behind this crisis is El Nino, a weather phenomenon characterized by large-scale warming of surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean.

Occurring every two to seven years on average, El Nino disrupts global weather patterns, often leading to hotter temperatures.

The current El Nino episode began in mid-2023 and is expected to last for another few months.

The WFP emphasizes that these extreme weather conditions highlight the urgent need for investment in programs that build resilience in southern Africa.

While the current El Nino cycle is nearing its end, the WFP warns that the consequences of this severe drought will have tragic repercussions for months to come.

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