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UN: 27 Million in Southern Africa Face Food Shortages


A woman carries a bag of maize distributed by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Mwenezi, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 9, 2015.

A woman carries a bag of maize distributed by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Mwenezi, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Harare, Zimbabwe, Sept. 9, 2015.

The United Nations estimates more than 27 million people in southern Africa may not have enough to eat over the next six months because of poor harvests. The situation could get worse as El Nino weather patterns affect rainfall and crop production.

Two U.N. agencies – the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) – say drought and flooding over the last growing season are to blame for the current food shortages in southern Africa.

The threat is most severe for Malawi, Zimbabwe and Madagascar.

Chimimba David Phiri, FAO coordinator for southern Africa, says the number of food-insecure people has increased 13 percent compared to a year ago. He says the severe El Nino weather patterns forecast for the region won't help matters.

“So we do expect that some parts of the region, we have normal to below normal rainfall. Should it be below, then we can expect a further problem: reduced production for a second season running. I hope it does not get to that. If it does, then the number of food-insecure people will increase. Even those people who were resilient this year will fall into food insecurity next year,” Phiri says.

The U.N. relief agencies say Tanzania is the lone country in the region that produced enough in the 2014-2015 season to meet its needs. South Africa and Zambia will not need to import food only because they have enough in their stocks. The rest of the region will have to rely on imports or international aid.

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