Minister in the Office of the Vice-President Olipa Phiri says the hunger situation in some parts of the country is a disaster because it falls under the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit.

Responding to a question from Mitete UPND member of parliament Misheck Mutelo, who wanted to find out if the hunger situation in the country was a disaster or not, Phiri said it was a disaster because it fell under DMMU, prompting members of parliament to burst out in laughter.

“Because of the drought and the floods which we experienced in 2018\2019 which has made us to be talking today about the shortages of food and that people don’t have food that is why we are calling it a disaster because it is under our Disaster Management Committee,” Phiri responded.

And Chimwemwe member of parliament Elias Mwila noted that 58, out of 116 districts, which translated into about 50 percent of the country, had been affected by hunger.

He wondered how many more districts needed to be hunger stricken for the President to declare an emergency.

In response, Phiri said, “As at now, we are working at 53 districts”, but this prompted Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini to explain the question to the minister.

Phiri then insisted that the situation was manageable.

“As at now, it is still manageable and I remember the Minister of Agriculture on Tuesday he told us that the food which we have….we still have enough food for us to manage the disaster which we are experiencing now,” replied Phiri.

At this point, leader of opposition Jack Mwiimbu rose on a point of order noting that Phiri had not addressed the question raised by his Chimwemwe counterpart.

Speaker Matibini explained the question a second time.

“As at now, tomorrow, I will be giving the in-depth assessment which is going to tell us the threshold after the assessment. The situation as at now it is manageable by government,” Phiri replied.

And in a ministerial statement, Phiri said drought experienced in the 2018\2019 rainy season was a regional problem.

“The drought condition in the country experienced during the 2018\2019 rainy season is a regional problem that has affected as many as seven countries, including Zambia. The drought has mainly affected the southern half with part of Central, Eastern and Lusaka Provinces. I would like to inform the House that a total of 2,330,182 people representing 388,364 households in 53 districts will require relief intervention for them to survive up to the next harvest. My office has distributed a total of 2,339,200 by 12.5 Kg of mealie meal in 58 districts which were assessed by the Zambia Vulnerability Assessment committee. And in addition, 13 districts which were not captured in the assessment. Mr Speaker, this is an ongoing process that will go on up to the next harvest period,” said Phiri.

“We are discussing with line ministries and the cooperating partners for us to also to ensure that selected households of mainly elderly, child headed and terminally ill also receive some emergency cash transfer so that the support goes beyond food. We are also working on modalities of emergency school feeding programe with the Ministry of General Education and the Word Food programe to ensure that we keep the learners in school for communities that were badly hit by drought and floods.”