Zambia declares national disaster over El Nino drought

AFP , Thursday 29 Feb 2024

Zambia declared drought a national disaster on Thursday with President Hakainde Hichilema saying the lack of rain has devastated the agricultural sector, affecting more than one million families.

Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema
Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema addresses a press conference at his residence in Lusaka, Zambia. AP

 

The southern African country has gone without rain for five weeks at a time when farmers need it the most, Hichilema said.

This compounded the effects of another dry spell and flooding that hit the nation last year, he added.

"The destruction caused by the prolonged drought spell is immense," the president said, in an address to the nation.

Exacerbated by climate change and the El Nino weather phenomenon, the crisis threatened national food security, as well as water and energy supply, Hichilema said.

Zambia is highly reliant on hydroelectric power.

Almost half of the nation's "planted area" has been "destroyed", Hichilema said.

"In view of these challenges... we hereby declare a prolonged drought as a national disaster," he said.

The measure allows for more resources to address the crisis, with the drought expected to last well into March.

Hichilema said humanitarian aid will be made available to ensure people do not go hungry.

The government will also look at importing additional electricity and rationing power, he said, calling for international support.

The naturally occurring El Nino climate pattern, which emerged in mid-2023, usually increases global temperatures for one year afterward.

It is currently fuelling fires and record heat across the world.

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