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Millions of Africans Face Life-Threatening Food Shortages from Drought

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EIRNS—An article in Bloomberg yesterday, penned by Whitney McFerron and Frank Jomo, described the dire food shortages that have emerged in parts of Africa due to an unprecedented drought situation. It said that "the corn that is a food staple for much of southern Africa is now so expensive it has become a luxury many can’t afford, after the worst drought in three decades damaged crops from Ethiopia to South Africa."

The article cited the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) data which show that, of the 34 countries that will require food aid this year, 27 are on the continent. The World Food Program says that as many as 50 million people may eventually be affected in the region. Another 10 million people are at risk in Ethiopia alone, because of drought, along with millions more in conflict-ridden countries, including South Sudan and Central African Republic, the article said.

The article cited a research fellow at the U.K.’s Overseas Development Institute, Steve Wiggins, saying food costs may double in Zimbabwe, which will need to import as much as 1 million metric tons of grain.

"While ocean freight costs are low, the country has to import through South Africa and Mozambique. In a normal production year, local wholesale corn in Zimbabwe would cost about $120 to $150 a ton, but prices will probably be at least $100 higher this year with the added transportation costs," he said.

"The country in the region that is just looking down the barrel is Zimbabwe," Wiggins said. The bottom 10 to 20 percent of Zimbabweans will be in terrible straits in terms of sorting out their food during 2016. And beside Zimbabwe, there are other countries who are facing a similar threat. For instance, the article noted Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, which has appealed for $1.4 billion from international donors. The government has been buying up wheat in global markets since at least October, including a tender for 500,000 tons this week. The USDA forecasts that the country’s wheat imports will nearly triple this year, the article said.