Reuters International

An internally displaced woman carries her child as they wait for assistance at Hariirad town of Awdal region, Somaliland April 9, 2016. Across the Horn of Africa, millions have been hit by the severe El Nino-related drought. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

(reuters_tickers)

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The International Federation of Red Cross and the Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched an appeal for $110 million to a new initiative to help drought-stricken southern African countries.

In South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, last year's poor rains have been followed by an El Nino-driven drought that has delayed planting and stunted crops.

An estimated 31.6 million people across the region are struggling to feed themselves, and the figure is expected to rise to more than 49 million by the end of the year, the IFRC said in a statement.

"Behind each unit (statistic) there is a person, there is a mother who is really having this invisible pain to see her children going to bed hungry," said IFRC Secretary General Elhadj As Sy.

The IFRC aims to scale up relief efforts and distribute emergency cash to the hardest hit communities, he said.

Sy said the organisation's longer-term goal aims to provide support to a million people over the next four years, through introducing irrigation schemes and new farming practices to overcome future drought.

The plan to tackle drought in southern Africa is part of a global initiative by the Red Cross to help one billion people by 2025 by lessening their reliance on aid.

The initiative is being carried out jointly with other aid organizations, governments and the private sector.

(Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by James Macharia)

reuters_tickers

 Reuters International