Gaborone - The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has been warned to brace for the worst year in decades as 45 million Southern Africans are food insecure due to the drought ravaging the region.
In its latest report dated 14 January 2020, the World Food Programme (WFP) said that it will support 8.3 million people in eight most affected countries in the region, namely Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, over the next six months with in-kind food and cash assistance.
"An additional US$284 million is required to meet urgent food needs, with US$205 million of the required
US$489 million secured to date," said the organisation.
"With a funding gap of US$284 million, immediate contributions are required to avoid a bigger humanitarian disaster. WFP does its utmost to offset the consequences of delayed financial contributions. Food is procured locally and regionally to the extent possible, although food production in the region has been below average due to the drought," WPF said.
It said where necessary, commodities will be purchased on the international market. WFP said its advance procurement mechanism, the Global Commodity Management Facility (GCMF), allows for immediate dispatch once additional resources become available, significantly reducing lead-time.
The WFP said immediate funding was required to continue assisting those struggling to feed
themselves and avert a deeper disaster. It said as climate-related natural disasters were
becoming more frequent, multi-year funding was crucial for sustainable and effective impact.
"The scale of the region’s hunger crisis is unprecedented. As we enter the peak of the rainy
season, the number of food insecure people in the 16-nation Southern African Development
Community (SADC) is set to reach a record 45 million," WFP said.
WFP said driven by climate change, millions of people are experiencing crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity.
"The severity of the situation is largely a consequence of the cumulative effects of climate-related natural disasters in the form of recurrent widespread drought — the region has only had one normal rainy season in the last five years — cyclones and persistent flooding, " WFP said.
It expressed concern that for hard-hit families in a region heavily dependent on rain-fed smallholder farming, this meant limited food stocks, fewer meals, more children out of school, the distress sale of livestock and other assets, and other negative coping strategies.
"Afflicting urban as well as rural communities, the hunger crisis is aggravated by rising food prices
and mounting joblessness, posing a risk of political instability. It is also deepening acute malnutrition in
particularly vulnerable communities," WFP said.
It warned further that the crisis could deepen this year.
"Forecasts indicate an increased likelihood of below-normal rainfall in many parts of the region in January-March 2020, the crucial growing period ahead of the main April-May harvest," WFP said.
It said with 25 percent of families in Madagascar’s drought-prone south now suffering crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity, and stunting rates the highest in the region, WFP aimed to support more than three-quarters of a million people there with food and nutrition assistance through March. Some 200,000 were assisted in December. In advance of the annual rains, WFP pre-positioned food at
key points to ensure supplies to hard-to-reach locations.
In Zimbabwe, WFP said at least 5.5 million people in rural areas and 2.2 million in urban areas are severely food insecure. In November and December, WFP reached more than 1.4 million people. Food
distributions are rapidly increasing with the aim of assisting 4.1 million people through April, while food
insecure people in urban areas will receive cash assistance. The WFP is fully transitioning to in-kind food
assistance in rural areas due to a dire shortage of local currency.
To prevent child malnutrition during the lean season, the WFP is providing specialised nutritious food to all children under the age of five in targeted households through June.
In Mozambique, two million people are experiencing “crisis” and “emergency” levels of hunger due to the
effect of cyclones and flooding in the centre and north of the country and of drought in the south. WFP plans to support 1.25 million of them at peak lean season.
That assistance will run in parallel with support to longer-term recovery, reconstruction and resilience-
building, anchored in Food Assistance for Assets, for another 1.2 million people.
In Zambia, the organisation said for the first time since 2004, WFP is providing emergency lean season food assistance in addition to its regular technical assistance to the government. WFP added that it was
supporting the government’s emergency response, procuring and delivering pulses for 1.1 million people and transporting local maize meal to 13 hard-to-reach districts.
So far, 167,000 people have been supported and assistance will increase progressively if additional funds are received.
In Namibia, the WFP revealed that having suffered its worst drought in a generation during
the last growing season, a 53 percent drop in 2019 cereal production and massive livestock losses, Namibia had also seen hunger surge. Some 290,000 of its 2.5 million people are now severely food insecure. Not having directly distributed food in the country for several years, the WFP
provided food to 17,000 people in December. Distributions will be expanded to reach 379,000 people, it said.
Responding to Eswatini’s deepening hunger hunger crisis – fuelled by drought, a poor harvest, inflation and rising unemployment – the WFP said it reached 47,000 people with cash transfers in December. While 166,000 people require WFP support, only half that number will receive assistance with current funding levels. Immediate contributions are required if vulnerable groups are not to fall further into
In Lesotho, two drought-stricken harvests in succession — cereal production dropped by 36 percent in 2018 and by 70 percent in 2019 — have contributed to an alarming surge in severe hunger in Lesotho. WFP said it plans to provide 40 percent of those facing hunger with lean season assistance, having reached 51,000 in December. Assistance is cash-based with a portion being mobile money that can be spent flexibly, and the rest in the form of vouchers that provide recipients with nutritious
food items from local retailers.
While Malawi enjoyed a 25 percent year-on-year increase in maize production notwithstanding the impacts of Cyclone Idai last year, WFP is planning to assist, through March, 415,000 of the 1.1 million people in IPC Phase 3 as a result of drought and cyclone-induced flooding. Thus far, WFP has assisted
54,000 people with cash-based food assistance, in line with the expansion of the national Social Cash Transfer programme.