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14 million face hunger in southern Africa

January 18, 2016

The UN has said millions of people could be at risk in Africa as a drought sweeps across parts of the continent. El Nino has exacerbated the dangerous weather conditions.

Hunger in Malawi
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/E. Waga

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said on Monday around 14 million people across Malawi, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, South Africa and other countries are at a serious risk of going hungry amid a bout of unnaturally dry weather.

Malawi is expected to be the worst-affected by the drought, which has been intensified by El Nino weather patterns. Some 2.8 million people - 16 percent of the population - could go hungry, a press releasesaid.

Madagascar, meanwhile, could see up to 2.8 people of its population impacted, while 1.5 million people in Zimbabwe are at risk.

'Outlook is alarming'

South Africa is also facing its worst drought in decades, with the country's so-called "maize belt," which produces most of the world's supply of that staple grain, being especially hard-hit.

"With little or no rain falling in many areas and the window for the planting of cereals closing fast or already closed in some countries, the outlook is alarming," the UN said.

The agency said it was planning on scaling up its food assistance programs in the most-affected countries.

The El Nino weather pattern is a warming of Pacific Ocean surface temperatures that occurs every few years. It typically brings drier conditions to southern Africa and wetter conditions to eastern Africa.

blc/kms (Reuters)