Zambia’s president declares prolonged dry-spell national disaster, emergency

Zambia’s president declares prolonged dry-spell national disaster, emergency

Country lost 2.5 million acres of planted crops, faces 500MW power deficit

​​​​​​​By James Kunda

LUSAKA, Zambia (AA) - Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema declared Thursday that the current dry spell is a national disaster and emergency.

Due to an El Niño climate phenomenon that has plagued the 2023 - 2024 rainy season, the Southern African nation has lost 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) from 2.2 million planted crops and could face an energy deficit of around 500 megawatts, leading to electricity rationing.

Hichilema, in a televised national address from State House in Lusaka, urged cooperating partners to provide humanitarian relief beyond grain and said his country would also consider power imports to keep the economy and industries running, especially the heavily power-dependent mines.

He said the 2024 national budget would also be realigned to enhance social protection support for d more than 1 million farming households, with adjustments including a cut on luxury travel for government officials.

“I also wish to appeal to our official private creditors, who include the bondholders, that now is the time to close the Zambia debt restructuring project so that we bring market stability and certainty. We have taken a lot of time on this program but Zambia has done its part, it is now time to put closure to this process,” said Hichilema.

The dry spell has affected 84 of the country’s 116 districts and Hichilema directed military wings to engage in active food harvesting projects, adding that whatever crop produced would be thoroughly mopped up and resources from cooperating partners prudently used.

Zambia could also face an increase in human-animal conflict cases due to the limited availability of water as a result of the adverse weather pattern.

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