The UK is to provide £35m to Malawi and Zimbabwe to alleviate the “looming food crisis” in southern Africa.
International development minister Lynne Featherstone, who is on a visit to Malawi, said the funds would “save countless lives”.
Price hikes and unpredictable weather have left food stocks dangerously low in the region, the government said.
Up to £20m is destined for Malawi, where maize stocks have fallen to just a quarter of the annual average.
The money will support the World Food Programme and other international organisations in providing nearly half a million people with food and cash transfers, school meals for 800,000 schoolchildren and treatment for 18,000 malnourished children and pregnant women, the Department for International Development (DfID) said.
President of Malawi Joyce Banda said her government had always cherished the UK government’s responsiveness to our request for support and was grateful for this assistance.
“This support will go a long way in protecting the livelihoods of vulnerable Malawians who are likely going to miss their food entitlements due to food insecurity at household level. This support complements my government’s efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition in Malawi.”
The rest of the funding will be targeted at Zimbabwe, again via international organisations, and is expected to provide food to for 600,000 people and enough cattle feed and vaccinations to protect the livestock and livelihoods of 300,000 people, DfID added.
Ms Featherstone said: “Countries across Southern Africa are facing disaster as a looming food crisis threatens to leave millions hungry.
“British support will save countless lives in two of the worst-affected countries in the region, ensuring the most vulnerable people in Malawi and Zimbabwe are not forgotten as the crisis worsens.”