Zambia Declares The Prolonged Dry-spell A National Disaster, And Emergency.

Harare, Zimbabwe – Zambia has declared the drought the country is currently going through a national disaster, with President Hakainde Hichilema saying the lack of rains has devastated the agricultural sector, affecting more than one million families.

The following is what the Zambian President said:

Fellow citizens,

Today, with a heavy heart, we address you as our beloved country faces a severe drought, the worst of its kind, caused by the El Niño weather conditions in the 2023/2024 rain season influenced by the climate change phenomenon.

This drought has devastating consequences on many critical sectors such as agriculture, water availability, and energy supply, risking our national food security and the livelihoods of millions of our people. This also negatively affects our economic development program.

The destruction caused by the prolonged dry spell is immense, with 84 severely affected districts in Lusaka, Central, Copperbelt eastern, north-western, western, and southern provinces.

At the national level the estimated planted area for maize is 2.2 million hectares and of this, approximately 1 million hectares have been destroyed.

The dry spell is projected to continue, even into March 2024, affecting over 1 million of our farming households.

Equally affected is the energy sector which is expected to have a deficit of around 430 megawatts of electricity, potentially reaching more than 520 megawatts by December 2024.

The current drought conditions have also affected the availability of both ground and surface water and pasture for livestock and wildlife and have the potential to increase the incidence of human and animal conflict, as well as disease.

The drought compounds the challenges the country was already facing, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the cholera outbreak.
This is diverting resources initially intended for accelerating economic and social development.

FELLOW CITIZENS

Given these challenges, urgent and decisive action is required from all of us. The government, by the Disaster Management Act No. 13 of 2010, and other relevant legislation DECLARES THE PROLONGED DRY-SPELL A NATIONAL DISASTER AND EMERGENCY.

Given the foregoing, your government will undertake the following actions, among many others:

SHORT-TERM MEASURES

Channeling more resources towards humanitarian relief purposes. To ensure that our affected citizens do not go hungry.

Importing additional electricity and rationing energy use as well as promoting alternative energy sources.

Ensuring that citizens do not engage in bush burning.

Source additional maize and other food to mitigate the deficit.

Leveraging Zambia’s defense forces to expand irrigation schemes as a way to increase food production.

Get our farmers across the country to embark on planting early and winter maize through various forms of irrigation.

Ministry of Community Development and Social Welfare to enhance the numbers under the social cash transfer so that more vulnerable people are covered.

The food reserve agency will enhance community sales to the vulnerable and work hand in hand with the DMMU on the provision of purchasable maize in the communities.

Calling upon our partners, local and international to provide food and other support that they may have, to provide the needed relief.

We are pleased, and thankful that some partners, such as the British, the UN system, the World Bank, and others have already made indications that they will provide support.

We call upon our official and private creditors to work with us in earnest to bring closure to the debt restructuring program.

This will help provide certainty for our country and the financial markets as we grapple with the increasing effects of climate change.

I am directing that there must be total transparency in the use of resources when responding to this disaster and emergency.

Anyone who departs from this, or is found to be misusing resources will be on their own, and their actions will trigger the full force of the law.

We invite all stakeholders to monitor the response to this disaster and emergency and report any transgressions to the relevant authorities immediately.

LONGER TERM MEASURES

Focus on enhancing water harvesting mechanisms to enable precision and other irrigation development to stimulate agricultural production.

Specifically, we will aggressively increase investment in water harvesting, genetics, and technology to support irrigation and productivity improvements.

Increase the provision of FISP and soft agriculture loans to our citizens for mechanization and increased productivity.

Accelerate the development of alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, and others.

To achieve these measures, we shall therefore realign the 2024 national budget.

These measures are by no means exhaustive, your government commits to adapting and enhancing responses as the situation evolves.

Fellow citizens,

The disaster and emergency are serious, and the government is responding urgently with the utmost dedication, and as a united team.

As a resilient and resourceful nation, we will stand together in unity and solidarity as one people, and together we will overcome. We will work with all farmers, farming input suppliers, grain traders, millers, academics, professionals, regulators, church, civil society, unions, traditional leaders, political parties, and others

To our resilient farmers throughout our vast land, we express our gratitude for heeding the call to cultivate maize and other crops.

Despite nature’s challenges, your unwavering commitment to combat the El Niño situation through inventive irrigation methods, like ox cart-driven water bowsers and wheelbarrows, is commendable, and quite simply heroic. You have our full support.

Your resilience and bravery serve as a profound inspiration, motivating us to work diligently.

To our valued global community and cooperating partners, we appreciate your prompt and substantive response and assistance. Our gratitude extends to your governments and the people of your nations.

To reiterate, we call upon our churches, traditional leaders, civil society organizations, farmers’ unions, and all stakeholders to join hands with the government in mitigating this national crisis.

From now onwards, and following this announcement, we will pull together multidisciplinary teams, including government and the private sector, under specific work streams, to comprehensively and effectively respond to this disaster and emergency.

For us the work begins yesterday, and now.

May God bless you all

May God bless our country.

Hakainde Hichilema,
President of the Republic of Zambia.

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