Cyclone Idai Threat to Food Security, Health in Southern Africa

UNITED NATIONS As the flood waters recede in cyclone-hit southern Africa, officials are starting to assess medium- and longer-term requirements, including food security, health needs and improving disaster preparedness.

"For 2019, food security is going to be a serious, serious issue," World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley told a U.N. meeting about Cyclone Idai on Tuesday.

Beasley, who addressed the session via a video link, noted "the crops in these areas, particularly in Mozambique, are just gone. So, the harvest for this season is gone, and the chances for next season are minimal at best."

"Hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land have been essentially put out of use in the short term," U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said. "There is now only two or three weeks to prepare for the small harvest and to plant for the small harvest. So, there is an urgent need for seeds and tools and fertilizers to at least rescue the potential for the small harvest later in the year."

Cyclone Idai slammed into Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe in mid-March bringing powerful winds, major rains and storm surge flooding. Nearly 900 people have been confirmed dead across the three countries, while many more are missing, and hope is fading for them to be found alive.

"The waters into which they were lost are waters infested with crocodiles. They are waters infested with hippos, and they may never be found," Zimbabwe's U.N. Ambassador Frederick Shava said of the missing.

Even before Idai wreaked havoc, parts of this region faced food insecurity. Inconsistent rains combined with an economic crisis had 5.3 million people in Zimbabwe in humanitarian need. Now, the U.N. says an additional 270,000 people require assistance.

Source: Voice of America