Zimbabwe Declares El Niño-Induced Drought a National Disaster

Over 2.7 Million Face Food Shortages as Country Seeks International Aid

by Victor Adetimilehin

Zimbabwe joins its neighbors Zambia and Malawi in declaring a national disaster due to a devastating drought fueled by El Niño, a natural climate phenomenon. The announcement by President Emmerson Mnangagwa comes amidst severe food shortages affecting over 2.7 million people.

Drought Caused by El Niño Wreaks Havoc on Crops

El Niño, characterized by unusually warm Pacific Ocean temperatures, disrupts global weather patterns and often leads to drier-than-average conditions in southern Africa. This year, El Niño has caused significantly reduced rainfall and dry spells in Zimbabwe, hindering staple grain planting and drastically impacting crop yields.

President Mnangagwa addressed the nation on Wednesday, outlining the dire situation. “The El Niño-induced drought has resulted in a national grain deficit of nearly 680,000 metric tons,” he said. “We expect only 868,273 metric tons from this season’s harvest, leaving a substantial shortfall.”

To address the looming food crisis, the Zimbabwean government is implementing a multi-pronged approach. Firstly, they plan to bridge the grain deficit through imports from other countries. Measures are already underway to encourage private sector participation in the import process.

Secondly, the government is prioritizing food security by expanding winter wheat production and utilizing all available irrigable land. Additionally, they are looking to the diaspora community, United Nations agencies, and humanitarian organizations for critical assistance.

Beyond Food Shortages: Drought’s Ripple Effects

The drought’s impact extends beyond food insecurity. Zimbabwe, heavily reliant on hydroelectric power, is experiencing reduced power generation due to lower water levels. The government acknowledges this challenge and emphasizes a focus on solar power to mitigate energy shortages and keep businesses operational.

President Mnangagwa estimates that Zimbabwe needs more than US$2 billion to address the drought crisis effectively. He appealed to the international community, including the diaspora and humanitarian organizations, to support the nation’s recovery efforts.

While the situation is undoubtedly challenging, Zimbabwe’s proactive approach, including import plans, increased wheat production, and international aid requests, offers a glimmer of hope. A successful response to the drought can ensure food security for millions and pave the way for a more resilient agricultural sector in the future.

Source: New Zimbabwe


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