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Zambia: Prolonged drought increases food insecurity

08 Jan 2020

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Mambolomoka Village, Shangombo District, western Zambia, 11 November 2019. At least 5,000 people are in emergency phase (IPC 4) in the village, following two consecutive failed rain seasons. Credit: OCHA

A combination of prolonged, severe drought in the western and southern provinces of Zambia over the past two rainy seasons in 2017 and 2018, and floods in the north, have increased hunger, with more than 2.3 million people across the country expected to be severely food insecure through March.

Four districts – Sioma, Lunga, Shang’ombo and Gwembe – are facing emergency levels of food insecurity, according to the latest Integrated Phase Classification analysis. The lean season runs from October to March.

The 2018–2019 rainfall season was one of the poorest in the southern half of Zambia since 1981, according to the Zambia Meteorological Department. This has negatively impacted crop production and, consequently, food availability and access.

Pest infestations and livestock disease outbreaks, including the fall army worm and foot-and-mouth disease, have further aggravated the situation, and 58 districts have registered a significant decline in maize production, the staple food, according to the Zambia Vulnerability Assessment Committee report. Acute malnutrition has risen to nearly 6 per cent across Zambia, according to the report.

Decreased access to clean water has increased the risk of communicable disease outbreaks, such as typhoid and cholera. Reduced water quantity and quality is also affecting women and girls by exposing them to more health and protection risks.

Zambia is also responding to a vaccine-derived polio virus type 2 and has launched an immunization campaign targeting more than 478,500 children in the north.

As of December 2019, the Humanitarian Country Team had mobilized US$38 million, including $8 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, towards the Humanitarian Appeal requirement of $89.5 million. These resources have enabled humanitarian partners to kick-start activities in health, food and other sectors.

More funding is urgently required, however, to prevent the humanitarian situation from deteriorating as the country approaches the peak of the lean season.