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El Niño in Africa: Severe Drought Threatens 50 Million People

  • Villagers collect their monthly food ration provided by the United Nations World Food Program in Masvingo, Zimbabwe.

    Villagers collect their monthly food ration provided by the United Nations World Food Program in Masvingo, Zimbabwe. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 May 2016

Africa is facing the most serious food crisis of the last 25 years which has 31 million people in urgent need of food and 20 million more by year's end.

Up to 50 million people in Africa could face a food shortage crisis by Christmas as the continent is in the grip of a severe drought that would place the region in its worst food crisis in 25 years, the U.N. warned Sunday.

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“The collective impact of the El Niño phenomenon has created one of the world’s biggest disasters for millions of people, yet this crisis is receiving little attention," Stephen O’Brien, the U.N.’s humanitarian chief, told The Observer. 

The drought has destroyed food production, disrupted water supply and increased food prices, leaving 31 million people needing food now and 20 million more likely to run out of food later this year.

However, the U.N. has predicted that food will reportedly start running out on a large scale by July, with the crisis peaking between December and next April.

More than US$650 million and 7.9 million tons of food are needed immediately, says the U.N.. By Christmas, the situation will have become severe, The Guardian reported on Sunday. 

​Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Madagascar, Angola and Swaziland have already declared national emergencies or disasters.

The phenomenon has "created massive needs across the world," the U.N. said in a press release on Friday, particularly in east Africa, southern Africa, Central America and the Pacific.

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"Aid is not enough; a longer term approach is required in order to build the resilience of the most vulnerable,” The world body stated. 

The anouncements takes place as the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed former Irish President Mary Robinson and Kenyan diplomat Macharia Kamau on Friday as special envoys for El Niño and climate.

The new special envoys will be responsible for "raising the profile and sounding the alarm," Ban said in the statement. 

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