Record Numbers of Southern Africans Need Food Aid, SADC Says

A record 27.4 million people in Southern African Development Community countries need humanitarian assistance this year after a series of disasters damaged crops, the regional organization said.

Cereal production in member states has dropped 22 percent in 2015, SADC Director of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Margaret Nyirenda told reporters Wednesday in Gaborone, Botswana’s capital.

A prolonged dry spell, heatwaves, floods and even frost have disrupted farming, Nyirenda said. Among SADC’s 15 member states, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Malawi experienced the sharpest increase in the number of vulnerable people. In South Africa, the continent’s most industrialized economy, 14.1 million require food relief, little changed from last year.

“The humanitarian crisis is being handled at a national level and not at the regional,” Nyirenda said. “We are not going to be launching a regional appeal and instead, individual countries will do so. They may approach SADC for assistance in doing so and we will assist.”

Cereal production dropped to 40.23 million metric tons from 45.62 million tons last year, when it had a surplus of maize, wheat, rice, millet and sorghum of 1.21 million tons, the organization’s food security report shows.

Maize output dropped to 31.7 million tons from 36.8 million last year, compared with regional SADC requirements of 32.9 million tons, according to the report.

— With assistance by Mbongeni Mguni

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