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 Lindah Lungu and Alice Tembo, washing her hands at an Oral Rehydration Treating Point (ORTP) Center set up by Oxfam partner, Keepers Zambia Foundation during a cholera outbreak
  • 2 mins read time
  • Published: 2nd April 2024
  • Blog by Melissa Cooke

Zambia drought sees millions on brink of starvation

National emergency declared as six million face hunger.


Drought in Zambia has left millions of people from farming families without enough food or water. In a country already facing multiple challenges associated with the adverse impacts of climate change, this latest ordeal is acutely worrying, particularly as it comes in the wake of a cholera outbreak which killed nearly 700 people.

“With this crop failure, I am really in trouble,” says Mainza Muchindu, a farmer from Lusaka, Zambia.

Farmers’ crops have been destroyed and the next growing season is a year away, leading the Zambian government to declare national disaster and emergency.

The destruction is devastating.

  • 2.5 million acres of 2.2 million planted crops have been destroyed.
  • Zambia’s malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world. Before
    this disaster was declared, 17.4 million (48%) couldn’t meet their
    minimum calorie requirements.
  • 35% of children are stunted.
  • Between October 2023 and March 2024, 2.04 million people (23%)
    didn’t have enough food and needed urgent humanitarian aid.
"Urgent support in the form of food and clean water is what people need the
most now."
— Ezra Banda, Director at Keepers Zambia Foundation, a partner organisation working with Oxfam, who noted that water shortages from low rainfall this year could cause another cholera outbreak

Mainza Muchindu doesn’t know how he will feed his family:

“I have a family of 10 people and I depend on farming to support them. I
support my children’s education through agriculture and my little children
need food the most, for their nutrition,”
— says Mainza.
“I don’t know what else to do because I invested all my money into this two-
hectare maize crop and there is nothing that will come from here. I don’t
know where else I will get food from. I can only hope that there will be food
relief from the government, otherwise we are facing a big problem”.

Oxfam in Southern Africa Programme Director, Machinda Marongwe, says money is needed to address the worsening impacts of climate change:

“As long as rich countries don’t lower their carbon emissions, we know that climate shocks will be frequent and more severe. Smallholder farmers need to be insulated from this and must be adequately supported to transform their agriculture, so that they can still grow food for their families amidst this climate change reality.
“Sadly, those farmers are not getting support to solve problems they didn’t
cause. Nothing is coming their way because rich nations are offering just lip service. Countries like Zambia and many others in Southern Africa need climate financing to help them build up the resilience of their smallholder farmers.”

Efforts to address the current crisis requires urgent funding, in the region €6 million.

 This is money which would:

  • provide 600,000 people with cash transfers and clean water,
  • help with winter cropping,
  • improve local sanitation and hygiene services to stop another cholera