February 9, 2018 / 2:02 PM / a month ago

World Food Programme warns of deeper hunger across southern Africa

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Poor rains and crop infestations in southern Africa are threatening deeper hunger across the region, with millions of people, particularly children, at risk, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO - A man draws water from a communal tap in Disaneng village outside Mafikeng, South Africa, January 28, 2016. About 14 million people face hunger in Southern Africa because of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern, according to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). REUTERS/Sydney Seshibedi

“Given that the region has barely emerged from three years of very damaging El Nino-induced drought, this is a particularly cruel blow,” Brian Bogart, WFP’s regional program advisor, said in a statement.

Large swathes of land across the region, from South Africa to Zambia, has been hit by high temperatures and low rainfall, while an invasive crop-eating army fallworm outbreak has shrunk cereal crop production for 2018, experts said.

WFP said there were fears for another rise in the number of people in the region needing emergency food and nutrition assistance, which had fallen to 26 million people last year from a peak of 40 million people during the 2014-2016 El Nino crisis.

On Thursday an alert was issued by a regional food and nutrition expert group urging action on the possible impact of a “prolonged dry spell” would have on the agricultural season.

“Moisture deficits, high temperatures and a persistence of Fall Army Worm infestation is likely to result in a below average crop and livestock production,” said the report cited by WFP.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia and David Evans

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