El Nino
Southern Africa has suffered one of its worst harvests in years due to a lack of rain, prompting concerns about food shortages across the regionPhilimon Bulawayo/Reuters

The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) has warned that the El Nino weather cycle could cause severe drought in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 60 million people are facing a food crisis due to failed crops. The Pacific Ocean phenomenon has a global impact on weather patterns, which can cause heavy rains in some parts of the world and drought elsewhere.

"There is a higher likelihood of flood conditions developing in equatorial Africa, and increased risk of drought in parts of southern Africa and the Sahel region," Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre said on 5 October.

According to IFRC and Red Crescent Societies, food crops have been destroyed by drastic changes in the region's weather pattern since 2014 that has led to many people in Gambia, Mauritania, Malawi, Namibia, Senegal and Zimbabwe to survive on food aid. Without more food aid to the region, "the prospects for many affected people are bleak," IFRC said.

IFRC's Sahel region operations manager Miriam Grove said: "Many families are surviving on one meal a day made from leaves, which have very little nutritional value. Or, they are even going without food for days because of the erratic rainfall.

"These people need urgent assistance. If we can help them now, we can maintain their nutritional status and give them the tools and seeds necessary to survive worsening conditions next year," she added.

"The crisis currently facing millions of families is not inevitable and should not be acceptable," IFRC acting regional representative in southern Africa, Michael Charles said in a statement. He added: "There are many things that we can do to stop this food crisis in its tracks and alleviate the impact on vulnerable people, but we need international support to make this happen."

With 37% of the region's children underdeveloped, IFRC warned that "further decreases in the availability of nutritious food may be life-threatening for children, people living with HIV, and other vulnerable groups." It also said to provide immediate food relief to the region a sum of CHF8 million ($8.1 million, £5.3 million) is required.