Chief Chikanta has appealed to President Edgar Lungu to own up and declare that Southern Province has a hunger disaster.
Briefing a three man BBC television and radio crew led by Andrew Harding that paid a courtesy call on him at his office in Choma, chief Chikanta, who is the chairperson of the Southern Province Royal Foundation, said if government accepted that there is hunger, other organisations and donor countries could assist with relief food.
“If only the President can accept that there is hunger in Southern Province. If only he (President Lungu) can declare a hunger disaster, then maybe others can assist us. But as at now, he is refusing saying there is no hunger, but people are eating poisonous tubers, people are hungry and it is worse especially in the valley area,” chief Chikanta said.
On Thursday, WFP senior programmes officer Anthony Mulando after distributing relief food to Munyumbwe’s Kalama area said there was severe impact of drought in Gwembe area.
He said Gwembe was listed as “emergency” under the WFP’s Food Security Categorisation.
Mulando explained that the WFP had four categories of food security with level four being crisis.
“Under level 3, it means that if you don’t do anything, it may move under emergency and that is what we call level 2 which is ‘stress’ which is normal, what we are concerned with now is levels 3 and 4,” he
And asked if the district administration was aware that people were surviving on toxic tubers which had to be soaked in water for about a week to remove the toxin, Gwembe district council chairperson Paul Chilala said this was what the people had been surviving on from time immemorial.
“We can’t do anything about it because that is what people have been eating for a long time and no one has died,” Chilala said.
Gwembe district commissioner Julius Phiri said no one would die of hunger despite the fact that the situation was so bad.
He praised the UN and other cooperating partners such as World Vision for complimenting government efforts to mitigate the effects of drought.
“I can assure you that no one will die out of hunger,” Phiri said.
A WFP media brief issued at it’s mealie meal and beans distribution canter at Kalama Primary School in Sickoma area of Gwembe district indicated that the WFP would deliver 2,610 metric tons of government
maize meal and 783 metric tons of beans to over 4,100 people in Gwembe.
Meanwhile, 65-year-old widowed woman Esther Simwamvwa said she had not eaten for two days and had to survive on borrowed food to feed her 9 dependants who include daughters and grandchildren.