Southern Africa is in the middle of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern, causing about 14 million people to go hungry, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday.
Reuters, quoting the WFP, says the worst-affected country is Malawi, where 2.8 million people live and 16 per cent of the population are expected to go hungry. This is followed by the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar, where almost 1.9 million are at risk.
In Zimbabwe, 1.5 million people, more than 10 percent of the population, face hunger, the WFP said.
“With little or no rain falling in many areas and the window for the planting of cereals closing fast or already closed in some countries, the outlook is alarming,” the U.N. agency said.
“WFP is looking to scale up its lean season food and cash-based assistance programmes in the worst-hit countries, but faces critical funding challenges,” it added.
The drought has hit much of the region, including the maize belt in South Africa, the continent’s most advanced economy and the top producer of the staple grain.
South Africa faces its worst drought in decades after 2015 became the driest calendar year since records began in 1904. Expectations of poor harvest this season could force the country to import up to 6 million tonnes of maize, over half of its consumption needs.
Maize prices in South Africa hit record highs on Monday, with the March contract for the white variety scaling a new peak of 5,106 rand ($304) a tonne, according to Thomson Reuters’ data.