Southern Africa needs US$1.1 billion in humanitarian assistance


By Tione Andsen, MANA

Humanitarian agencies in southern African countries have appealed for US $1.1 billion to help them cope with food crisis it is facing but they have received only half of what is needed.

The agencies plead with donors to urgently fund the UN humanitarian appeals to help save lives.

Severe food insecurity rates across nine southern African countries are 140 per cent higher now than in 2018, primarily because people are being hit by weather extremes driven by climate change, according to Oxfam, CARE, Plan International and World Vision.

There are now over 14.4 million people across the southern Africa region facing acute levels of hunger, compared to 6 million at the same time in 2018.

“Our region is losing its part of the UN’s fight for ‘zero hunger by 2030’ as described in its Sustainable Development Goals  because subtropical region of southern Africa are warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and being battered by repeated weather shocks,”  Oxfam’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, Nellie Nyang’wa said on Sunday.

Reports say Zimbabwe is the hardest hit country by proportion, with 5.8 million people facing severe levels of food insecurity across urban and rural areas. 

Zambia has 2.3 million people affected; Mozambique 2 million and Malawi 1.9 million.

In the past two years, the region has experienced three major cyclone floods and drought characterized by the lowest rainfall since 1981 in the months between October and December, as well as record warm temperatures in the first half of 2019.

These unusual and disruptive weather patterns have resulted inlarge scale crop losses which affected the availability of maize, a staple food, and driven prices up across the region in 2019.

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“The cyclones, flash floods and droughts that in the past used to be extreme are now being sufferedas ‘normal’ by our farmers,” Nyang’wa says.

“The climate crisis is not just hitting people in sudden spikes of humanitarian emergencies, but it is undermining their ability to build up their reserves and assets and resilience day by day.

Cyclone Idai effects

“The climate crisis here is a permanent one, ripping away the coping mechanisms that people here have relied upon for generations to help see their communities and families through the lean times. 

“This crisis is not an occasional headline for the people of southern Africa, it’s now a profound way of life.

“The scale of the drought devastation across southern Africa is staggering. Over the past five years, continuous failed agricultural seasons meant that countries have not had adequate time to recover and their national reserves of grainshave depleted. 

Southern Africa

“Zimbabwe alone has had a cereal deficit of 1m tonnes in the past year,” she said.

More frequent droughts have had a devastating impact on small scale farmers, in particular women who do the majority of agriculture in the southern Africa region.

“Women and girls are the worst affected during times of drought and women often suffer disproportionally from climate change shocks,” says Matthew Pickard, CARE International’s deputy regional director for southern Africa.

Women most affected

“Women bear majority of responsibility for households including ensuring families have food and water as well as household chores and child rearing.

“As CARE, we are making sure we provide a gender sensitive approach in our drought response and resilience programming, to ensure the most vulnerable groups such as women and girls are prioritised and empowered, and that their specific needs are met. 

This includes working with women to set up village savings and loans associations, income diversification and other climate resilience building programmes,” he said.

Young girls are at most risk

Plan International Regional head of disaster risk management, Stuart Katwikirize said: “We are extremely concerned at the increasing number of adolescent girls who are being married off so that the families can earn the next meal.”

World Vision’s Southern Africa Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs Director, Maxwell Sibhensana said the region is alarmingly seeing an increase in girls resorting to sex for payment just to put food on the table, earning as little as 40 cents each time. 

“Increasing commodity prices and lack of available food mean some feel they have no other option. We are incredibly concerned about the long-term impact of this kind of abuse on young girls.”