THE World Food Programme (WFP) has thanked President Edgar Lungu and the Government for granting the organization an exemption to export maize for use in its humanitarian operations.

WFP executive director Ertharin Cousin also said the re-election of President Lungu presented an opportunity for the WFP to continue working with the Government towards achieving ‘‘zero hunger’’ in Zambia.

Ms Cousin called for more support from the Government to urgently accelerate and streamline maize export procedures for the WFP’s humanitarian services, given the increasing severity of the El Nino drought crisis which might worsen much earlier than normal.

She acknowledged that Southern Africa was facing the worst drought in 35 years, with five countries in the region having declared national drought disasters, followed by a Southern African development community (SADC) regional drought disaster declaration.

The WFP executive director emphasized that food was vital to the lives of millions of people, especially women and children, in neighbouring countries in particular Malawi, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

In a congratulatory message to President Lungu, she commended the Zambian farmers and the Government’s stewardship of the agricultural sector which has established Zambia as a grain basket for Southern Africa, and as a main source of humanitarian food assistance in the region.

Ms Cousin stated that she fully appreciated the high demand for maize in the region has obliged the Zambian government to introduce measures aimed at controlling exports to ensure Zambia’s food security, and that the country itself has not been spared from the drought.

“Notwithstanding, you are providing assistance to neighbouring countries, a point that I personally have widely and publicly acknowledged,” she said.

Ms Cousin called for the urgent operationalization of the sub-committee on humanitarian logistics established through discussions between WFP Zambian Office, the Disaster Mitigation and Management Unit (DMMU) and the inter-agency ministerial committee on food security, adding that this was urgently required to facilitate a fast and streamlined export permit process for the organisation’s cross-border trucking operations.

She noted the slow pace at which the WFP food deliveries have been moving to neighbouring countries for a number of weeks, describing this as a detriment to the governments and communities expecting a rapid response.

“Your Excellency, we would deeply appreciate your consideration and support for accelerating the proposed system,” Ms Cousin said.

The WFP executive director said her organisation looked forward to supporting the President’s goal to diversify the country’s agricultural sector as Zambia’s engine for broader economic prosperity.

“Please, allow me to extend my sincere congratulations on your re-election, and on the peaceful process that followed at the parliamentary and local elections and during Zambia’s referendum on the Bill of Rights,” she added.

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