• El Nino-induced drought caused nearly 500,000 livestock deaths
  • High chance of La Nina means better rains and harvests

More than 41.4 million people in the Southern African Development Community are food insecure, with about half of them needing urgent help after the worst regional drought in 35 years, the trade bloc of 15 countries said.

The El Nino-induced drought has curbed cereal production in almost all countries in the region, which spans from South Africa to the Democratic Republic of Congo, leading to deficits. Almost 500,000 livestock have died in Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa and Zimbabwe alone, while dams have also been severely depleted, according to SADC.

“We are deeply concerned about the scale of food insecurity in the region,” Margaret Nyirenda, director for Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources, said in an e-mailed statement dated June 15. “People continue to lose their means of survival and we can lose lives if we do not act now.”

The region has a nearly 9.6 million-metric-ton cereal-production shortfall, translating to about 28 percent of requirements, SADC said. Food insecurity will peak from October this year to March 2017, it said.

There is a 70 percent chance of a La Nina weather pattern following the El Nino, which could mean reduced water deficits and better harvests, according to SADC. It could also bring floods.

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