In the grips of a growing climate emergency, Southern Africa is now facing severe food shortages, according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
After years of drought, flooding, and economic chaos, around 45 million people in the 16-nation region are facing food insecurity.
Considered a “hotspot” by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the region has not experienced a steady growing season in over five years and seasonal rains are continually behind schedule.
“This hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve not seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to get worse,” WFP’s Regional Director for Southern Africa Lola Castro said. “The annual cyclone season has begun, and we simply cannot afford a repeat of the devastation caused by last year’s unprecedented storms.”
Castro is referring to Cyclone Idai, which hit Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe in March, killing over 900 people and leaving 3 million with a dire food shortage.
“While our most pressing priority are the millions in need of immediate support,” Castro continued, “Building the resilience of the many more threatened by increasingly frequent and destructive droughts and storms is absolutely essential.”
With the lean season — the period in between harvests — fast approaching, millions will require assistance from the larger international community since this season’s harvest is not expected to yield many crops.
On Thursday, WFP announced plans to provide $205 million in lean season assistance to 8.3 million people living in nations that have been impacted the most by Southern Africa’s climate crisis including Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, and Malawi.
After conducting its own informal food security assessment, WFP’s country director for Zimbabwe, Eddie Rowe, found that the situation is quickly deteriorating.
“Our assessment is not officially recognized. But it looks bad,” Rowe said. “Our concern is there is a 60% chance we are going to see another failed harvest this year.”
Around 7.7 million people in Zimbabwe are currently food insecure, as are 20% of the population in Zambia and Lesotho. To make matters worse, food prices have already begun to surge, causing families to skip meals, sell their belongings, and even take their children out of school.
Without the necessary funding, many more families will continue to starve and suffer, and the fight against climate change in the region will remain stagnant.