El Nino-Hit Southern Africa Seeks $2.7 Billion in Drought Aid

  • Five of SADC’s 15 members declare national emergencies
  • About 23 million people in urgent need of assistance

Southern African countries will start an appeal for $2.7 billion to cope with the effects of the region’s worst drought in more than three decades that’s left 23 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

Ian Khama, who is president of Botswana and chairman of the 15-country Southern African Development Community, will this month declare a regional disaster because of the drought and start an appeal for support, SADC said in an e-mailed statement Tuesday. The declarations enable international financial assistance.

The El Nino-induced drought damaged crops from palm oil, rice and sugar in Asia to grains in southern Africa and robusta coffee in South America. About 60 million people worldwide face a lack of food because of the phenomenon that has scorched harvests in some areas and caused floods in others, the United Nations said last week. Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have declared national emergencies while eight of South Africa’s nine provinces have done the same.

“The appeal will be a formal request to the international community to provide assistance to affected member states,” SADC said. “The severe drought conditions have already taken toll on lives and livelihoods and the situation could deteriorate further if urgent assistance is not provided.”

The southern African region has been hit by two successive failed rainy seasons that resulted in heatwaves in the southern-most countries and flooding in the northern ones.

— With assistance by Mbongeni Mguni

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