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Hunger season strikes Southern Africa

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The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said today it's scaling up efforts to feed 3.5 million people in the worst drought hit areas of Southern Africa. Malawi, Zimbabwe and Lesotho are the hardest hit countries.

Lack of rain has meant poor crop production and whatever food is available is too high priced to purchase in the market. In Lesotho the price of maize has increased 60 percent putting it virtually out of reach for impoverished households.

Brenda Barton, WFP Deputy Regional Director for Southern Africa, said today, "Large numbers of smallholder farmers and their families are in the grip of what is set to be one of the harshest hunger seasons of recent years. With the help of governments, donors and regional organisations, we’re mobilising resources to help the most vulnerable, not only with food distributions but also with innovative solutions like cash transfers via mobile phones so people can buy their own food.”

In Malawi, WFP is bringing food to 1.8 million people but is facing a funding shortage of US $14 million dollars. In Zimbabwe, WFP is feeding 1.6 million people including with cash transfers. In Lesotho, WFP assistance reaches more than 200,000 people in farming areas but the operation is short US $4 million dollars in funding. WFP relies on voluntary funding from governments and the public for its relief operations.