The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a grant of 9.8 million euros from the European Union (EU) to assist its operations to support drought victims in Mozambique.

Southern and central Mozambique suffered a severe drought last year, related to the El Nino weather phenomenon and according to a WFP media statement here Monday, the EU funds will enable it to assist more than 270,000 smallholder farmers whose crops were devastated by high temperatures and lack of rain during the 2015/2016 crop season.

Some 1.4 million people are now food-insecure and in need of assistance to support them during the peak of the January-March lean season,” says the WFP. These months are critical because the first harvests after the 2016-2017 rainy season are not expected until April.

The number at risk could rise to 2.3 million over coming months, according to the latest assessments from the government-led Mozambique Vulnerability Assessment Committee.

We express our gratitude for the support received from the European Union, said WFP Country Representative and Director Karin Manente. This contribution will go a long way towards enabling WFP to meet the increased needs of the most vulnerable and help them become productive again.

The WFP says that, through its humanitarian programmes, it assisted more than 600,000 people in drought-stricken parts of Mozambique in December. The WFP and its partners are now scaling up to reach even more people through a range of activities aimed at addressing communities’ immediate needs whilst also engaging them in schemes such as the construction or repair of irrigation systems so they are better equipped to withstand extreme weather shocks.

The statement added that in 2016, the EU was among top donors to the WFP worldwide and contributed more than 32 million euros to WFP operations in southern Africa.