South Asia and Beyond

Zimbabwe Declares El Nino-induced Drought National Disaster

 Zimbabwe Declares El Nino-induced Drought National Disaster

A farmer in Mangwe district in southwestern Zimbabwe stands in the middle of his dried up crop field amid a drought, in Zimbabwe, Friday, March, 22, 2024. Zimbabwe declared a state of disaster Wednesday, April 3, 2024, over a devastating drought that’s sweeping across much of southern Africa, with the country’s president saying it needs $2 billion for humanitarian assistance. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

HARARE: Zimbabwe has declared a state of disaster over a devastating drought that’s sweeping across much of southern Africa, with the country’s president saying it needs $2 billion for humanitarian assistance. The declaration was expected following similar actions by neighboring Zambia and Malawi, where drought linked to the El Nino weather phenomenon has scorched crops, leaving millions of people in need of food assistance. “Due to the El Nino-induced drought … more than 80% of our country received below normal rainfall,” President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in a speech calling for international aid. The country’s top priority, he said, is “securing food for all Zimbabweans. No Zimbabwean must succumb to, or die from hunger.”

He appealed to United Nations agencies, local businesses and faith organisations to contribute towards humanitarian assistance.

El Nino, a naturally occurring climatic phenomenon that warms parts of the Pacific Ocean every two to seven years, has varied effects on the world’s weather. In southern Africa, it typically causes below-average rainfall but this year has seen the worst drought in decades.

In Zimbabwe, the United Nations’ World Food Program has already rolled out a food assistance program targeting the 2.7 million people, nearly 20 percent of the country’s population, from January to March.

The first few months of the year are traditionally known as the “lean period,” when households run short as they wait for the new harvest. However, there is little hope for replenishing food stores this year, and Mnangagwa said that even more people than previously forecast will likely need food aid.

Nitin A Gokhale WhatsApp Channel

Mnangagwa’s declaration will open the way for aid agencies to mobilise international support for more aid to Zimbabwe, but many people may still fail to get assistance, which is likely to be targeted to the most vulnerable populations due to limited resources amid a global hunger crisis and a cut in humanitarian funding by rich governments.

Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema declared the current drought a national disaster in February, saying that almost half of his country’s staple corn crop had been destroyed. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, more than 6 million in Zambia, half of them children, have been affected by the drought.

Less than a month later, Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera said his country needed more than $200 million in urgent humanitarian assistance over a drought that he said has affected 2 million households in 23 of the tiny country’s 28 districts. The U.N. Children’s Fund said about 9 million people, half of them children, need help in Malawi.

With inputs from AP

Subrat Nanda

At six feet and over, cool, calm and always collected. Never a hair out of place. He is the high priest of editorial facts, grammar is his baby and headlines are meat on the bone. Loves samosas and cricket, tracks Twitter and when in his cups, nothing better than Jagjit Singh’s ghazals.