July 12, 2016 / 5:20 PM / 3 years ago

Southern African economic bloc seeks $2.7 billion for drought relief

Botswana's President Ian Khama is flanked by Namibia's President Hifikepunye Pohamba ( L) and Malawi's former president, Bakili Muluzi (R, with glasses) during the ANC's centenary celebration in Bloemfontein January 8, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The Southern African economic bloc said it would appeal for $2.7 billion from the international community to help more than 23 million people in “urgent need” because of a blistering drought.

Ian Khama, chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), who is also president of Botswana, will “this month declare a regional disaster,” SADC said in a statement released on Monday.

Five member states, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, have declared national drought emergencies.

South Africa has declared a drought emergency in eight of the country’s nine provinces, while Mozambique has declared a 90-day institutional red alert for some southern and central areas.

“The appeal will be a formal request to the international community to provide assistance to affected member states,” the SADC said.

Southern Africa has been hard hit over the past year by an El Niño-inspired drought that has wilted crops, slowed economic growth and driven food prices higher.

(This story has been refiled to change attribution from Khama to SADC in second and fifth paragraph.)

Writing by Nqobile Dludla; editing by Andrew Roche

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