Zambia declares national emergency over drought

Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema has officially declared a national disaster to address the ongoing and severe drought affecting the country.

In an address to the nation on Thursday, President Hichilema revealed that 84 out of the total 116 districts in Zambia are currently affected by the prolonged dry spell.

The nation has been grappling with insufficient rainfall, raising concerns about potential food shortages and difficulties in meeting electricity demands, as a significant portion of Zambia’s energy is derived from water sources.

The water levels at Kariba Dam, crucial for hydroelectricity shared with neighboring Zimbabwe, have dropped to approximately 11.5% of usable storage as of last December.

President Hichilema highlighted the adverse impact of the drought on power generation, estimating a reduction of over 450 megawatts. Furthermore, nearly half of the land designated for crop cultivation has been adversely affected by the lack of rain.

In response to the crisis, the president pledged to facilitate the import of additional maize and other food items to address the anticipated deficit. He emphasized the involvement of Zambia’s defense forces in the effort to mitigate the impact of the drought, emphasizing a long-term solution to the recurring problem.

President Hichilema urged collaboration with farmers to increase crop cultivation and enhance social support programs for those affected by the dry spell. He called on both local and international partners to provide excess food for relief efforts, acknowledging commitments from entities such as the British government, the UN system, the World Bank Group, and others.

Recognizing the severity of the situation, Hichilema encouraged farmers to adopt irrigation methods to cope with the challenging conditions. Approximately one million farmers are estimated to have been adversely affected by the drought.

The president expressed a commitment to working with various stakeholders, including opposition politicians and the church, to address the crisis collectively.

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