Roundup: Severe drought, heavy rainfall hampers life in east, southern Africa

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A prolonged drought across the East African region and heavy flooding in some southern African countries are compounding the effects of conflicts to make people's lives difficult. Against the global trend of good harvests, Africa, especially its eastern part, faces the challenge of worsening food security due to drought and conflicts.

Some 37 countries require external assistance for food, including 28 African countries, as a result of lingering effects of last year's El Nino-triggered drought on harvests, says the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

In South Sudan, nearly half of the population of 11.3 million are in urgent need of food aid as the UN declared famine in the East African nation last week.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in South Sudan, with over 2 million displaced as unrelenting violence followed despite a peace pact signed in August 2015.

In Somalia, some 44 local and international aid agencies have appealed to UN to take urgent action to avert possible famine in the Horn of Africa nation where at least 6.2 million people face acute food shortage.

In a joint letter to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the agencies urged the UN chief to encourage international community to step up efforts to ensure that the mistakes made in 2011 are not repeated and push for immediate drought relief transitioning to longer restoration of livelihoods.

The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also warned that "Severe drought, rising prices, continued insecurity and access limitations, and depressed rain forecasts suggest famine is possible again in Somalia."

In the Greater Horn of Africa, the number of severely food-insecure people has increased to 22.9 million in February as a prolonged drought led to failed harvests, said the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in a recent report.

OCHA warned that drought in the Horn of Africa is expected to intensify in the coming months, with a delayed start to the rainy season and depressed levels of precipitation forecast for March-May in most of the region.

Extensive crop failures and record low vegetation, together with significant livestock deaths, are currently observed across Somalia, southern and eastern Ethiopia, and northern and coastal Kenya.

While East Africa reels over protracted drought and delayed rainy season, some countries in southern Africa experienced excessive rainfall most recently, incurring heavy human and property losses.

In Zimbabwe, the government has declared a state of disaster, saying at least 246 people died and over 2,000 others were left homeless as torrential rains continued to unleash flood.

Zimbabwe has received above-normal rain in recent months that has resulted in more that 85 percent of the country's dams spilling. The rains are expected to continue until the end of March.

Meanwhile, Mozambique is also going through a rainy season with unusual rains, which swelled rivers in some provinces.

Five people died and five others were missing after water from a overflowing river washed away a bus which carried them, Mozambican Authorities said Wednesday.

In February, tens of thousands of people living along Mozambique's coastline were affected by cyclone Dineo, killing at least seven and injuring some 50 people, according to official figures.

In Namibia, heavy rains started pounding the northern regions of Namibia earlier this week, leaving some towns under water. Endit

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