Panafrican News Agency

Rwanda: WFP warns of El Niño-induced famine in Zimbabwe

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) - The food situation in several regions across Zimbabwe remained grave and could deteriorate to a large-scale famine in some of the worst drought affected provinces of Zimbabwe, leading to low crop production where local capacities have been impacted by the worst El Nino-induced drought in 35 years, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned in a statement issued here Monday.

"The 2015/16 rainfall season (in Zimbabwe) was characterized by a late start, below-normal rainfall and prolonged mid-season dry spells. This resulted in low crop production, with most of the southern districts experiencing crop failure," the report, made available to PANA, indicated.

The report comes amid regional warnings by the UN agency, that if immediate assistance is not received, food insecurity is expected to peak during the October 2016 to March 2017 lean season, not only Zimbabwe, but also in some other countries in the Southern Africa region.

It said that while the El Niño itself has passed its peak and is now declining, its impact is still growing with harvests in several parts of Southern Africa already failing and are forecast to fail in other areas.

In addition, latest estimates by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) indicate that 39.7 million people are projected to be food insecure by the peak of the 2016/17 lean season.

This is because regional cereal balance sheet analysis shows overall cereal deficit of about 9.3 million tonnes where by Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have declared drought emergencies.

WFP researchers said that in Zimbabwe, the severity of the food security situation is aggravated by the compounded effects of two consecutive bad seasons in most parts of the country.

Across Zimbabwe, around 80 percent of surveyed residents in the affected areas would need emergency food by July, mostly in rural areas including especially in Mwenezi district, one of the districts most affected by the impacts of the El Niño in Zimbabwe.

El Nino and its counterpart La Nina, which is characterized by unusually cold ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific, occur cyclically, in recent years, mainly due to the effects of global climate change, according to weather experts.

They said that extreme weather events associated with these phenomena, such as droughts and floods, are likely to increase in frequency and severity in upcoming three months until September.

But the current situation in Zimbabwe gives cause for serious concern, the UN agency said.
-0- PANA TWA/VAO 25July2016