London — The US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) on Saturday warned that drought conditions caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon are likely to cause further deterioration in food security in Mozambique.
The Mozambican government estimates that 176,000 people are currently in need of food aid. However, FEWS NET makes a comparison with analogous years to estimate that the true figure could be close to 600,000 people requiring urgent food assistance.
The report highlights the fact that the first half of the 2015/2016 agricultural campaign has been “extremely poor” in the south and centre of the country, with many areas receiving less than half the usual rainfall.
FEWS NET points out that the rains were delayed in most of the country. In areas where the rains did come on time, subsequent drought has killed the nascent crops. In some communities repeated attempts to recover from lost crops has depleted seed stocks.
With many more households relying on buying food, prices have risen. In December maize grain prices in Maxixe, in the southern province of Inhambane, were 163 percent above the five year average and 135 percent above the same period last year. However, the price of maize meal and rice are near average and are expected to remain stable due to these being mostly imported.
On 15 January the government's Disaster Management Technical Commission (CTGC) announced an orange alert, only one step removed from the maximum state of disaster readiness, a red alert. The move was prompted by a combination of torrential rains north of the Zambezi and severe drought in the south.
The orange alert, the CTGC says, is intended to avoid the loss of human lives, and the destruction of economic and social infrastructures, while “paying greater attention to the most vulnerable groups (children, pregnant women, the elderly, and the chronically ill)”.