ZAMBIA – Zambia’s disaster response agency has said that the country needs about 738,000 metric tonnes of maize to provide for people adversely affected by drought for their food requirements 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 in 84 of the country’s 116 districts adversely affected by the drought.

In remarks delivered during a press briefing on the drought response plan, Pollen said the quantity of maize needed was determined based on an assessment of the nutritional requirements of the affected population.

He said so far 44,286 metric tonnes of maize has been made available by the Ministry of Agriculture and the Food Reserve Agency for immediate delivery to the affected districts, adding that the devastation caused by the drought has caused food insecurity in the districts.

“Right now, the government already has an ongoing intervention implementation, and bear in mind that we also expect support in the form of cash transfer,” he said.

According to him, the government is expected to source about 9.9 million U.S. dollars under the drought insurance cover while the World Food Program was expected to provide 3.3 million dollars to be given in the form of social cash transfer to the vulnerable populations.

The private sector is also expected to supplement government efforts in providing relief assistance, he said, adding that some organizations have already started making donations.

The statement comes after the government of Uganda, recently, announced that they are in talks with Zambia to export 500,000 tonnes of maize to replenish its depleted reserves.

“The Government of Uganda has received an expression of interest for up to 500,000 MT of maize grain to be exported to Zambia,” David Kasura-Kyomukama, Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture, Animal, Industry and Fisheries Permanent Secretary revealed,in a letter.

Like some of its neighbours, this southern African country is suffering from severe drought due to the El Nino phenomenon, which is worsening harsh weather conditions attributed in part to climate change.

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

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

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.

Pollen, however, said that strict control measures have been put in place within the humanitarian response to ensure that the relief support reaches the intended people.

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