ZAMBIA – The World Bank has approved a US$208 million (R3.8 billion) grant for Zambia to help address the social and economic impact of the drought that has hit the southern African nation, the Finance Ministry has revealed.

The funding, which will come mainly from the International Development Association (IDA), will provide emergency financial assistance to more than 1.6 million households in 84 drought-affected districts over a 12-month period. 

“The funds are intended to help the government respond to the impact of the drought by temporarily increasing the value of cash transfers to beneficiaries in affected districts identified under the drought emergency response strategy,” the statement read.

This financial support follows the announcement by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on June 27 of an allocation of US$66.8 million to the Zambian government to combat drought and strengthen food security. 

Like some of its neighbors, this southern African country suffers from severe drought due to the El Nino phenomenon, worsening harsh weather conditions attributed partly to climate change.

In February, President Hakainde Hichilema declared the drought a national disaster, highlighting that it has adversely impacted crop production in 84 out of the country’s 116 districts.

The President said that the drought has destroyed about 1 million hectares of the 2.2 million hectares planted with the staple maize crop.

According to Zambia’s Food Security Cluster Joint Rapid Assessment Report (March 2024), drought has affected food availability in the country, leading to significant shortages of key food commodities in the local market.

Recently, Zambia’s disaster response agency said that the country needs about 738,000 metric tonnes of maize to provide food for people adversely affected by drought for 14 months.

Gabriel Pollen, national coordinator for the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, said the maize is required in the immediate response to provide relief food to about 6.6 million people.

Chief Government Spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa said that the Zambian cabinet had approved the suspension of tax on all imported maize as part of a raft of measures to address the shortage caused by drought.

While the government will be at the center of importing maize for strategic reserves, the private sector has also been encouraged to seize the opportunity and engage in maize imports.

Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda are among the countries that have signed trade agreements with the nation to export maize.

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