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Drought may affect 49 million in southern Africa: UN

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Zimbabwean children watch as their mother collects water from a communal tap in Harare, February 5, 2016. (Reuters photo)

The United Nations (UN) has warned that around 49 million people in southern Africa could be affected by drought.

"It is estimated that 40 million rural people and 9 million poor urban people who live in drought-affected areas could be exposed,” the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said in a report on Monday. 

According to the WFP, around 14 million people are already facing hunger in the region. 

The UN agency also noted that the drought has been worsened by the most severe and longest El Nino weather condition in 35 years, as it has caused the lowest recorded rainfall between October and December since 1981. 

This comes as several countries across the region have been struck by a drop in food production and a rise in food prices due to the ongoing drought.

The drought has especially hit maize belt in southern Africa, the continent's top producer of the staple grain.

Maize planting has been delayed by two months or more in Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Maize deficit has pushed the price higher in several countries across the drought-hit region. 

El Nino brings very high temperatures and dryness in southern Africa in Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia. The dry conditions are anticipated to continue until the beginning of autumn in southern hemisphere in April or May.  

The event has influenced weather patterns across the world, causing warmer than normal temperatures in some parts of the world and bringing huge rainfall in some others.

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