WFP: Record 45 million people across Southern Africa face hunger

9 March 2017. Ngop: Women carry sacks of white maize back home after a food distribution in Ngop, Unity state, South Sudan. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) distributed food (maize, lentils, oil and corn soya blend) for more than 7,100 people in Ngop. While Leer and Mayendit, both also in Unity state, have been recently declared in famine, Ngop is also in high risk. The food distribution is part of a Rapid Response Mission coordinated and funded by the World Food Programme (WFP) to mitigate this risk. Photo by Albert Gonzalez Farran - NRC
FILE – In this Thursday, Jan. 15, 2009 file photo, village women receive aid from the charity organisation, Oxfam International, at a distribution centre in Chirumhanzi about 250 Kilometers Southeast of Harare. /AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on Thursday said a record 45 million people in the 16-nation Southern African Development Community faced increasing hunger as a result of repeated drought, widespread flooding and economic disarray.

“This hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve not seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to get worse,” the WFP’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, Lola Castro, said in a statement.

Southern Africa is in the grips of a severe drought, while other impoverished countries continue to deal with the effects of other extreme natural disasters, such as Cyclone Idai which devastated Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in 2019.

Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of southern Africa, is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by soaring inflation and shortages of food, fuel, medicines and electricity.

The agency plans to provide “lean season” assistance to 8.3 million people grappling with “crisis” or “emergency” levels of hunger in eight of the hardest-hit countries, which include Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Malawi.

To date, WFP has secured just $205 million of the $489 million required for this assistance and has been forced to resort heavily to internal borrowing to ensure food reaches those in need, it said.

Castro said that if the agency does not receive the necessary funding, it will have no choice but to assist fewer of those most in need and with less.