(Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwe said 9 million people — more than half of its population — will need food aid until March after the El Niño weather phenomenon resulted in a drought that decimated the nation’s corn crop, a staple in the southern African country. 

That forecast is a 17% increase from its previous prediction of 7.7 million announced on May 14, Local Government and Public Works Minister Daniel Garwe told reporters. 

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government said that Zimbabwe requires $3.3 billion of aid to feed its population. For now, the administration and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs have appealed for $429.3 million to help feed 3.1 million people.

The country expects to harvest 744,271 tons of corn this year, almost 70% less than a year earlier. That also compares with a national requirement of 2.2 million tons of the staple.

The El Niño weather phenomenon has triggered a dry spell across southern Africa that’s slashed South Africa’s corn crop by at least a fifth and led countries including Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe to declare states of national disaster because of crop failures. 

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--With assistance from Desmond Kumbuka.

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