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El Nino threatens to ruin harvest in Southern Africa

The Catholic aid agency CAFOD warns that the El Nino weather phenomenon threatens catastrophe across Southern Africa if, as predicted, it strikes before the next harvest.
Meteorologists predict that El Nino will affect the region before the April harvest but are unable to give accurate forecasts of exactly when or how it will strike because of the unpredictability of the phenomenon.

"Crops are growing well at the moment after a late start but they need regular rainfall for the next couple of months to mature properly," explained CAFOD spokesperson Fiona Callister who has recently returned from a visit to Zambia.

"Predictions are that within that time scale, El Nino related weather patterns will result in either another drought or flooding. Either way this year's harvest could be ruined. While I was in Zambia, our partners told me that they couldn't begin to imagine the consequences of yet another bad harvest."

If El Nino strikes the region, then for many areas it will be the third failed harvest in a row. Across Southern Africa, millions are already dependent on food aid and the prevalence of HIV/AIDS has deepened the effects of the crisis with many too sick to tend their crops or actively search for food. It is the HIV positive population and their families who are most vulnerable to food shortages.

CAFOD is therefore delighted to announce that its HIV work in Zambia has received a grant totalling euro1.22million (£792,000) from ECHO (the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid Office). Working in consortium with Caritas Austria, CAFOD will use the money to fund food aid for 16,222 beneficiaries distributed through HIV home based care programmes in the Lusaka and Ndola areas.

CAFOD Emergencies Officer Tim Aldred said: "It is excellent news that we can work together with the European Commission in meeting the desperate needs of Southern Africa at this time."

For more information contact Fiona Callister on 0207 326 5558 or 07979 781015 m. or fcallister@cafod.org.uk