DROUGHT is threatening to engulf the continent of Africa, from north to south, putting the lives of millions of people at risk, the Catholic Fund for
Overseas Development (CAFOD) warned this week.
Richard Miller, CAFOD's deputy director, said that harvests in the continent's bread-basket in southern Africa had failed, facing countries which would normally supply grain to the famine-hit Horn of Africa with potentially devastating shortfalls of food stocks.
Mr Miller said that the full extent of the impending disaster would not be known until assessment teams from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, currently touring southern Africa reported their findings.
Countries such as South Africa and Zimabwe, which in recent years have been able to supply aid programmes in wartorn Mozambique with emergency food supplies, will find themselves having to look abroad to make up deficits of their own this year, while Botswana, Swaziland and other states in the region will be forced to buy overseas, Mr Miller said.
Logistical bottle-necks could be created at ports in Mozambique and South Africa unless relief organisations prepared distribution operations well ahead of the extra burden the drought was likely to place on them, he said.
Zambia has already declared a state of national disaster as its fields have dried up in exceptional heat. The country now expects to import more than 800,000 tonnes of grain at a projected cost (4E171 million, In Namibia, as much as SO per cent of the maize harvest is thought to have been lost; in Swaziland grazing land is under threat; and in Mozambique, where transport has been disrupted by years of civil war, an extra 1,000,000 tonnes of food stocks will have to be imported this year.