Cape Town – The UN World Food Program says that a record 45 million people in the 16-member South African region face increased hunger after repeated drought, widespread flooding and economic chaos.
“This hunger crisis is on a scale that we have never seen before and evidence suggests it will get worse,” said regional director of the World Food Program (WFP) Lola Castro.
The agency warned that they only received $ 205 million from the $ 489 million needed. “Families throughout the region can no longer eat, bring children out of school, sell valuable assets and fall into debt to prevent agricultural losses.”
South Africa is in the grip of a severe drought, because climate change is wreaking havoc in poor countries that have struggled to overcome extreme natural disasters, such as Typhoon Idai which devastated Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in 2019.
Zimbabwe, which was once a bread basket in South Africa, is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by soaring inflation and shortages of food, fuel, medicine and electricity.
In December, the United Nations said it was receiving food aid for 4.1 million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the country’s population where shortages were exacerbated by uncontrolled inflation and climate-related drought.
“Zimbabwe is in the worst famine emergency upheaval in a decade, with 7.7 million people – half of the population – totally insecure,” the agency said.
In drought-hit Zambia and Lesotho, 20% of the population faces a food crisis, as do 10% of Namibia’s population. Castro said that if the agency did not receive the funds needed, he would have no choice but to help fewer of those who needed it most and with less.