The International Monetary Fund said Tuesday it has agreed to unlock $574 million in financial assistance to support for Zambia following severe drought.

The "staff-level agreement" follows a review of a $1.3 billion loan the International Monetary Fund granted to the debt-ridden African nation in 2022, and is subject to approval by the IMF's executive board, it said.

Vera Martin, the IMF's mission chief for Zambia, said, "The 2024 outlook has worsened due to the drought; GDP growth is now projected at 2.3 percent, half the forecast in December 2023."

The deal followed a request from Lusaka to increase the loan deal from $1.3 billion to $1.7 billion.

Once approved it will allow Zambia "immediate access" to roughly $574 million, Martin added.

Last month, the UN food agency warned that a drought caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon in Zambia had obliterated crops, pushing millions to the brink of starvation.

The IMF said Zambia has agreed to target emergency relief to the most vulnerable while sustaining fiscal consolidation efforts to restore debt sustainability.

Zambia's Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane said the agreement was a testament to the government's efforts to reform the economy and put its accounts in order.

"We are happy that the IMF acknowledges the efforts we are making to revitalise Zambia's economy and achieve sustainable growth," Musokotwane said.

Lusaka had about $18 billion in debt when it defaulted in 2020, as the Covid-19 pandemic battered Africa.

It has since reached a long-sought debt restructuring deal with creditors that took years to negotiate.