Millions face prospect of food shortage in drought-hit Africa

Sunday, December 02, 2012
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
Blantyre, Malawi: The World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that millions face the prospect of food shortages in drought-hit areas of southern Africa.

In a press release, WFP said it was working with government and partners to scale up efforts to deliver food assistance to more than 3.5 million people in southern Africa. Among the worst affected countries are Malawi, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

Communities already struggling to feed their families are now bracing for the onset of the so-called hunger season that traditionally lasts from December until harvest time in March.

Erratic rainfall during the last planting season means harvests in many areas have not been sufficient to sustain the nutritional needs of farming communities this year and, even where food is available in local markets, it is often too expensive for the poorest households.

Southern Malawi, southern Zimbabwe, and the southern highlands of Lesotho face particularly severe food shortages. The prices of staples like maize on local markets are unseasonably high. Maize prices have increased 60 percent in the markets of Lesotho since the start of the year.  In Malawi, maize prices have risen nearly 80 percent since this time last year.

In southern Malawi WFP is distributing food to more than 1.8 million people living in rural communities. The Malawi government has donated 25,000 metric tons of maize from its Strategic Grain Reserve and has announced plans to release a further 47,500 tons. Other donors like UKAID, USAID and the Kingdom of Norway are also supporting the operation.

In Zimbabwe some 1.6 million vulnerable people, one in five of the rural population, are facing food shortages. While most of these are being assisted through food distributions, some 300,000 people are receiving cash to enable them buy their own cereals from local markets.

In the southern highlands of Lesotho, 200,000 people in farming communities are receiving food from WFP. At the same time, WFP is working with the Government and other UN agencies to find longer-term solutions to the food crisis caused by two consecutive years of crop failures. The current shortfall for WFP's Lesotho emergency operation is US$4 million. -UNifeed
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