About 14 million people face hunger in Southern Africa because of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday.
The worst-affected country is Malawi, where 2.8 million people, 16 percent of the population, are expected to go hungry, followed by the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar where almost 1.9 million are at risk, WFP said in a statement.
In Zimbabwe, 1.5 million people, more than 10 percent of the population, face hunger, WFP said.
“With little or no rain falling in many areas and the window for the planting of cereals closing fast or already closed in some countries, the outlook is alarming,” the U.N. agency said.
“WFP is looking to scale up its lean season food and cash-based assistance programmes in the worst-hit countries but faces critical funding challenges,” it added.
The drought has hit much of the region including the maize belt in South Africa, the continent’s most advanced economy and the top producer of the staple grain.
South Africa faces its worst drought in decades after 2015 was the driest calendar year since records began in 1904. Expectations of a dire crop this season could force the country to import up to 6 million tonnes of maize, over half of its consumption needs.