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UN aid agencies ramp up response amid worst southern African drought in decades

UN aid agencies ramp up response amid worst southern African drought in decades

Following the worst El Niño-induced drought in decades in southern Africa, United Nations humanitarian agencies and partners today launched a revised Action Plan to outlining their response to the needs of an estimated 13.8 million people as the region enters the peak of the lean season with largely depleted food stocks due to poor and failed harvests.

In a news release yesterday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the region is suffering “severe” food shortages, exasperating a multitude of existing and increasing vulnerabilities, including weak commodity prices, unfavourable exchange rates and slow economic growth.

“As we enter the critical period of the crisis during the lean season, many countries are struggling to stretch funds to cover the growing needs,” Timo Pakkala, El NinÞo Coordinator for the southern Africa at OCHA said in the release.

The situation in southern Madagascar, for instance, is particularly worrying as maize, cassava and rice productions fell by as much as 95 percent this year, compared to 2015. An estimated 845,000 people on the island are in the “emergency” or “crisis” categories of food insecurity.

“It is essential that humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable people is sustained through this period, and for farmers to be supported so they can resume agricultural production,” Mr. Pakkala stressed.

The release added that as of early December, some $757 million has been raised for Regional Inter-Agency Standing Committee (RIASCO) – comprising UN and non-governmental humanitarian agencies in the region – which has which has helped save lives, protect livelihoods and reduce human suffering.

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