Mozambique

Food aid needed for 350,000 Mozambicans, UN says

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By Charles Mangwiro

MAPUTO, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Around 350,000 people in Mozambique need food aid because of poor harvests, but the U.N. World Food Programme is running short of funds, a WFP official said on Tuesday.

Central and southern regions have had less than half their normal rainfall since October and the southern African country may be heading for its third consecutive year of drought despite recent rains in some areas.

WFP spokesman Peter Transburg said 350,000 people in seven provinces needed food aid.

"We are $8.5 million short for our programmes until April, we are talking to donors and if we don't get new contributions we will definitely be forced to cut the ration and discontinue the relief assistance," Transburg told Reuters.

The money is needed to buy 10,840 tonnes of cereals to supplement household reserves and help families cope with high food prices from January until the next harvest in April/May.

Farm output in central Sofala province is also under threat from locusts which have invaded the area in the last few days, worsening the impact of recent heavy rains.

"There are swarms of locusts destroying horticulture and other crops which survived the flooding last year, a fact which could worsen food security of local farmers this time when heavy rains are already posing a concern," said Joao Ribeiro, director of the National Institute of Disaster Management.

Mozambique is prone to natural disasters such as droughts, floods and cyclones. On Monday, authorities said torrential rains had killed 25 people in central areas in the last two weeks and that flooding could devastate the region by March.

Thousands of homes have been destroyed while roads, bridges and electricity pylons have been damaged in four provinces.

In early 2007, floods in central Mozambique killed 45 people and left 285,000 homeless, and cyclone Favio displaced a further 140,000 people.

(Reporting by Charles Mangwiro; editing by Stella Mapenzauswa and Tim Pearce)

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