Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe declared a state of national disaster due to the worst drought in almost two decades that’s killed cattle, withered crops and left more than a million people needing food aid.
Mugabe’s announcement on state radio came as government ministers and United Nations officials warned of an accelerating disaster caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon that’s led to drought across southern Africa.
The number of people needing emergency food assistance has risen to 2.4 million from 1.5 million in a nation of 12 million people, Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said in a statement on Friday. Crops have been affected across 95 percent of the country and more than 16,000 cattle have died, he said.
“The situation is deteriorating at an alarming rate,” Eddie Rowe, an official with the United Nations World Food Programme, said on February 2, adding: “We’re approaching an unprecedented food insecurity situation, not just in Zimbabwe, but in the southern African region.” Rowe said food aid would be needed for at least nine to 12 months.
The government has earmarked $200 million for food imports, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa told lawmakers in Harare.
The drought has also affected regional corn producers South Africa, Malawi and Zambia.