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Food Shortages Threaten Southern Africa

Photo: UN Photo

Content by: South-South News

3 December 2012, New York USA | Connor Schratz - Food supplies have hit frightening lows in the drought-stricken countries of Southern Africa, prompting questions over how the region's 78 million people are going to feed themselves.

The World Food Programme has warned that dire consequences could await the region, and has called upon rich countries to increase their donations to avert disaster.

"Large numbers of smallholder farmers and their families are in the grip of what is set to be one of the harshest hunger seasons of recent years," said WFP Deputy Regional Director for Southern Africa, Brenda Barton.
"With the help of governments, donors and regional organizations, we're mobilizing resources to help the most vulnerable, not only with food distributions but also with innovative solutions like cash transfers via mobile phones so people can buy their own food."
The poor crop yield has hit Southern Africans in their wallets. Food prices have jumped in many countries, pushing some basic crops out of reach . Maize today, though it is in season, is 60 percent more expensive in Lesotho than it was when the year began, and 80 percent more expensive in Malawi.

The situation is similarly dreary in Zimbabwe, where about 20 percent of the rural population, or 1.6 million people, are vulnerable to continued drought. 300,000 Zimbabweans are on some form of financial assistance to help them buy food and weather the drought intact.

"We had problems this year. The rain has been so erratic," reported Saukila Black, a Malawian farmer. "We planted in the first place and the crops dried out. We planted the second time again it didn't go and we planted the third time with no results."

To combat these challenges, WFP is working with donor organizations, like UKAID, USAID, and the Kingdom of Norway, to provide food supply routes to those in danger. Despite these efforts, a funding gap remains – WFP has announced that it is currently about $4 million short of where it would like to be in its Lesotho emergency operation.

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