Windhoek – The Executive Secretary of the Southern African Development Community, Dr Stergomena Tax, says more than 50 million people in the region are food insecure, and has called on members of the bloc to build co-ordinated disaster and risk management systems to improve livelihoods.
Dr Tax said this while addressing the region’s ministers and authorities responsible for risk and disaster management at a virtual meeting Wednesday at which the SADC Secretariat presented the Updated 2020 Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa.
The report says about 51.3 million people in SADC were categorised as food insecure for the period January-March 2021.
“This represented a 25 percent increase in the food insecure population from the previous year, and is the highest figure ever recorded … In April 2020, Tanzania experienced severe floods that affected over nine of its regions. These floods resulted in the destruction of property, displaced thousands of families and led to loss of lives.
“The City of Uvira in South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) also experienced these floods, which displaced about 70,000 and led to the death of 38 people. Due to high rainfall received around Central and Eastern Africa in December 2020 and 4 January 2021, floods affected the Lake Tanganyika region that led to the overflow of Lake Tanganyika and floods around the lake.
“The floods led to loss of human lives, destruction of crops, and significant damage to infrastructure such as roads, which had serious impacts on the movement of people from rural areas to urban centres to obtain basic need,” said Dr Tax.
She noted that at the last meeting on disaster and risk management, most SADC members had declared a state of emergency due to COVID-19.
“The pandemic pushed our capacities to co-ordinate to the limits, as none of our member states had ever experienced a pandemic of this magnitude,” she said.
The pandemic had compounded vulnerabilities caused by natural disasters, Dr Tax said.
“In January 2021, Tropical Cyclone Eloise made landfall in central Mozambique near the coastal city of Beira, affecting over 175,000 people and damaging about 8,000 houses. The aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Eloise also affected other inland countries, including Botswana, Eswatini, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia that experienced torrential rains and floods,” she said.
The SADC boss commended the DRC for its quick response to the volcanic eruption early in the week, saying its measures had averted greater losses of lives.