Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema appealed for help on Tuesday April 16, saying his country needed “vital” assistance of more than $900 million (around 850 million euros) to make facing the worst drought in its history.

In a televised speech, he explained that almost half of the 20 million inhabitants of this very poor southern African country had been affected by this drought caused by the El Niño climatic phenomenon. More than 6 million people need emergency assistance, he added.

“Zambia has experienced extremely little rainfall this year, causing the worst drought on record,” he said. The agricultural sector is devastated, with crops and pastures affected. But the country, which declared a state of national disaster in February, only has 51 of the 940 million needed to cope, he added.

“With heavy hearts, on behalf of the government and people of Zambia, we appeal to the international community, our partners in the country, the private sector, churches and civil society organizations, to support financially and materially our plan to limit the devastating effects of drought,” the president said.

The El Niño phenomenon, which began in 2023, typically causes global temperatures to rise for a year. Currently, it is causing catastrophic droughts in southern Africa, where Zimbabwe and Malawi have also requested international aid.