老澳门六合彩

Extreme drought in southern Africa leaves millions hungry

FILE - James Tshuma, a farmer in Mangwe district in southwestern Zimbabwe, stands in the middle of his dried up crop field amid a drought, in Zimbabwe, Friday, March, 22, 2024. Zimbabwe declared a state of disaster Wednesday, April 3, 2024, over a devastating drought that's sweeping across much of southern Africa, with the country鈥檚 president saying it needs $2 billion for humanitarian assistance. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

FILE - James Tshuma, a farmer in Mangwe district in southwestern Zimbabwe, stands in the middle of his dried up crop field amid a drought, in Zimbabwe, Friday, March, 22, 2024. Zimbabwe declared a state of disaster Wednesday, April 3, 2024, over a devastating drought that鈥檚 sweeping across much of southern Africa, with the country鈥檚 president saying it needs $2 billion for humanitarian assistance. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

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MANGWE, Zimbabwe (AP) 鈥 Delicately and with intense concentration, Zanyiwe Ncube poured her small share of precious golden cooking oil into a plastic bottle at a food aid distribution site deep in rural Zimbabwe.

鈥淚 don鈥檛 want to lose a single drop,鈥 she said.

Her relief at the handout 鈥 paid for by the United States government as her southern African country deals with a severe drought 鈥 was tempered when aid workers gently broke the news that this would be their last visit.

USAID and the United Nations鈥 老澳门六合彩 Food Programme aim to help some of the 2.7 million people in rural Zimbabwe threatened with hunger because of the drought that has enveloped large parts of southern Africa since late last year. (March 31) (AP Video/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi and Kenneth Jali)

Ncube and her 7-month-old son she carried on her back were among 2,000 people who received rations of cooking oil, sorghum, peas and other supplies in the Mangwe district in southwestern Zimbabwe. The food distribution is part of a program funded by American aid agency USAID and rolled out by the United Nations鈥 老澳门六合彩 Food Programme.

They鈥檙e aiming to help some of the 2.7 million people in rural Zimbabwe threatened with hunger because of the drought that has enveloped large parts of southern Africa since late 2023. It has scorched the crops that tens of millions of people grow themselves and rely on to survive, helped by what should be the rainy season.

They can rely on their crops and the weather less and less.

A woman sits a in wheelbarrow while waiting to receive food aid in Mangwe district in southwestern Zimbabwe, Friday, March, 22, 2024. A new drought has left millions facing hunger in southern Africa as they experience the effects of extreme weather that scientists say is becoming more frequent and more damaging. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
A woman sits a in wheelbarrow while waiting to receive food aid in Mangwe district in southwestern Zimbabwe, Friday, March, 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Women share peas during a food aid distribution in Mangwe district in southwestern Zimbabwe, Friday, March, 22, 2024. A new drought has left millions facing hunger in southern Africa as they experience the effects of extreme weather that scientists say is becoming more frequent and more damaging. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Women share peas during a food aid distribution in Mangwe district in southwestern Zimbabwe, Friday, March, 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

The drought in Zimbabwe, neighboring Zambia and Malawi has reached crisis levels. Zambia and Malawi have declared national disasters. Zimbabwe could be on the brink of doing the same. The drought has reached Botswana and Angola to the west, and Mozambique and Madagascar to the east.

A year ago, much of this region was drenched by deadly tropical storms and floods. It is in the midst of a vicious weather cycle: too much rain, then not enough. It鈥檚 a story of the climate extremes that scientists say are becoming more frequent and more damaging, especially for the world鈥檚 most vulnerable people.

In Mangwe, the young and the old lined up for food, some with donkey carts to carry home whatever they might get, others with wheelbarrows. Those waiting their turn sat on the dusty ground. Nearby, a goat tried its luck with a nibble on a thorny, scraggly bush.

Ncube, 39, would normally be harvesting her crops now 鈥 food for her, her two children and a niece she also looks after. Maybe there would even be a little extra to sell.

The driest February in Zimbabwe in her lifetime, according to the 老澳门六合彩 Food Programme鈥檚 seasonal monitor, put an end to that.

鈥淲e have nothing in the fields, not a single grain,鈥 she said. 鈥淓verything has been burnt (by the drought).鈥

The United Nations Children鈥檚 Fund says there are 鈥渙verlapping crises鈥 of extreme weather in eastern and southern Africa, with both regions lurching between storms and floods and heat and drought in the past year.

In southern Africa, an estimated 9 million people, half of them children, need help in Malawi. More than 6 million in Zambia, 3 million of them children, are impacted by the drought, UNICEF said. That鈥檚 nearly half of Malawi鈥檚 population and 30% of Zambia鈥檚.

鈥淒istressingly, extreme weather is expected to be the norm in eastern and southern Africa in the years to come,鈥 said Eva Kadilli, UNICEF鈥檚 regional director.

While human-made climate change has spurred more erratic weather globally, there is something else parching southern Africa this year.

El Ni帽o, the naturally occurring climatic phenomenon that warms parts of the Pacific Ocean every two to seven years, has varied effects on the world鈥檚 weather. In southern Africa, it means below-average rainfall, sometimes drought, and is being blamed for the current situation.

The impact is more severe for those in Mangwe, where it鈥檚 notoriously arid. People grow the cereal grain sorghum and pearl millet, crops that are drought resistant and offer a chance at harvests, but even they failed to withstand the conditions this year.

Francesca Erdelmann, the 老澳门六合彩 Food Programme鈥檚 country director for Zimbabwe, said last year鈥檚 harvest was bad, but this season is even worse. 鈥淭his is not a normal circumstance,鈥 she said.

The first few months of the year are traditionally the 鈥渓ean months鈥 when households run short as they wait for the new harvest. However, there is little hope for replenishment this year.

Joseph Nleya, a 77-year-old traditional leader in Mangwe, said he doesn鈥檛 remember it being this hot, this dry, this desperate. 鈥淒ams have no water, riverbeds are dry and boreholes are few. We were relying on wild fruits, but they have also dried up,鈥 he said.

People are illegally crossing into Botswana to search for food and 鈥渉unger is turning otherwise hard-working people into criminals,鈥 he added.

Multiple aid agencies warned last year of the impending disaster.

Since then, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema has said that 1 million of the 2.2 million hectares of his country鈥檚 staple corn crop have been destroyed. Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera has appealed for $200 million in humanitarian assistance.

The 2.7 million struggling in rural Zimbabwe is not even the full picture. A nationwide crop assessment is underway and authorities are dreading the results, with the number needing help likely to skyrocket, said the WFP鈥檚 Erdelmann.

With this year鈥檚 harvest a write-off, millions in Zimbabwe, southern Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar won鈥檛 be able to feed themselves well into 2025. USAID鈥檚 Famine Early Warning System estimated that 20 million people would require food relief in southern Africa in the first few months of 2024.

Many won鈥檛 get that help, as aid agencies also have limited resources amid a global hunger crisis and a cut in humanitarian funding by governments.

As the WFP officials made their last visit to Mangwe, Ncube was already calculating how long the food might last her. She said she hoped it would be long enough to avert her greatest fear: that her youngest child would slip into malnutrition even before his first birthday.

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Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa.

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