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February 7, 11

NEWS / UN warns floods in southern Africa could lead to food shortages

7 February 2011 – Heavy rainfall and flooding in of southern Africa have damaged large areas of farmland and crops, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today, warning that communities in poorer parts of the region could experience food shortages in the coming months.

“Food insecurity levels are already critical in the affected areas of some of these countries and floods will only further worsen the ability of poor farmers to cope and feed their families in the coming months,” said the FAO Regional Emergency Coordinator for Southern Africa, Cindy Holleman.

The agency is working with regional and national early warning systems to monitor the evolution in major river basins and to assess the impact on food crops.

The region is half-way through the rainy season and the cyclone season is due to peak this month, a situation that puts several agricultural areas along the rivers in southern African countries ­– Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa – at high risk of flooding, according to FAO.

In Lesotho, for example, one of the poorest countries in the sub-region, an FAO assessment team found that in some of the flooded areas, up to 60 per cent of the harvest has been lost and more than 4,700 livestock, mainly sheep and goats, have died.

Localized crop losses are also reported along river banks in southern and central Mozambique. Authorities there have declared a red alert for central and southern Mozambique as water flows in the major rivers are above alert levels.

South Africa has already declared a national state of disaster in many districts of the country due to the floods that have destroyed thousands of hectares of crop land, and caused damage estimated in the millions of dollars.

FAO is participating in various flood impact assessments throughout the region and providing governments with technical advice on flood monitoring systems, preparedness, and measures to prevent the outbreak or spread of animal disease, while simultaneously preparing for possible agricultural aid interventions such as the delivery of quality seeds, and restoring agricultural activities after flood waters recede.




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