NAIROBI - The World Bank said on Wednesday it had approved a $2.3 billion programme for Eastern and Southern African countries to help them tackle food insecurity.

In a statement, the bank said an estimated 66.4 million people in the region were forecast to experience food stress or a food crisis, emergency, or famine by July.

"Food system shocks brought on by extreme weather, pest and disease outbreaks, political and market instability, and conflict are becoming more frequent and severe, putting more people at risk of food insecurity," the statement said.

"The war in Ukraine is further exacerbating these effects by disrupting the global food, fuel, and fertiliser markets."

The bank said its project - called Food Systems Resilience Program for Eastern and Southern Africa - will first target Ethiopia, where around 22.7 million people are food insecure due drought, and Madagascar where 7.8 million people are also in need of food aid due to drought in the country's south.

(Reporting by George Obulutsa; editing by Mark Heinrich)