Zambia’s maize fields, usually a vibrant tapestry of green, are now a desolate expanse, ravaged by the worst drought in over four decades. The UN’s humanitarian arm has issued a stark wake-up call, pleading for $228 million to avert a full-blown crisis.

This El Niño-induced drought has slashed Zambia’s cereal production by a staggering half, leaving 6.6 million people desperately clutching at straws. The UN’s targeted appeal aims to reach 4.6 million of the most vulnerable, a testament to the severity of the situation.

President Hakainde Hichilema, facing a storm of drought, a recent cholera outbreak, and a worsening economy, declared the drought a national disaster in February. The government estimates it needs a staggering $900 million to weather this storm, with food and electricity imports at the top of the shopping list.

Zambia’s woes don’t exist in isolation. The drought’s fiery grip stretches across the region, scorching the hopes of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Botswana as well.

Seeking international support, Zambia is eyeing additional financing from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on top of its existing $1.3 billion program. An IMF team is currently on the ground, assessing the crisis.  Fortunately, the IMF has indicated a willingness to look favourably on any requests from the Zambian government.

This looming food crisis demands a global response. Zambia, the “copperbelt” of Africa, is facing a humanitarian emergency that could unravel the fragile stability of the region. With winter swiftly approaching, the time to act is now.