Hunger grips Southern Africa as Zimbabwe declares drought a disaster

03 April 2024 - 14:29
By Nyasha Chingono
A wilted maize crop in Mumijo, Buhera district, east of the capital Harare, Zimbabwe.
Image: Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters A wilted maize crop in Mumijo, Buhera district, east of the capital Harare, Zimbabwe.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday declared Zimbabwe's drought a national disaster and said the country needs more than $2bn (R37.6bn) in aid to feed millions of people facing hunger.

Mnangagwa's statement follows similar announcements by Zambia in late February and Malawi in March as drought induced by the El Nino global weather pattern triggers a humanitarian crisis in Southern Africa.

More than 2.7-million people in Zimbabwe will go hungry this year, Mnangagwa told journalists in Harare, adding that 80% of the country had received poor rain.

“Preliminary assessments show Zimbabwe requires more than $2bn towards various interventions we envisage in our national response.”

The government will prioritise winter cropping to boost reserves and work with the private sector to import grain.

El Nino is a naturally occurring weather phenomenon associated with a disruption of wind patterns that means warmer ocean surface temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific.

Most provinces in Zimbabwe have experienced crop failure since November, with hotter areas declaring grain such as maize a write-off.

Humanitarian agencies, including the World Food Programme, which fed 270,000 people between January and March in four districts have described the hunger situation as “dire”, calling on donors to provide more aid.

The drought in Southern Africa has reached crisis levels, with Botswana and Angola to the west and Mozambique and Madagascar to the east also facing hunger.