Southern Africa: Drought - 2018-2020

Southern Africa: Drought - 2018-2020

The number of severely food insecure people in Southern Africa rose to an estimated 9.6 million at the start of the lean season (October 2018 to April 2019), due to an increase of 1.1 million people in Malawi. Malawi, which now has an estimated 3.3 million people in Crisis or Emergency (IPC Phase 3 and 4), and Zimbabwe, where nearly 2.4 million people are in Crisis or Emergency, have the highest numbers of severely food insecure people in the region. Meanwhile, three districts in Zimbabwe and two districts in Madagascar were classified in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) at the outset of the lean season, as a result of extreme loss of livelihood assets. There are also pockets of people facing Emergency food insecurity (IPC Phase 4) in Eswatini, Lesotho and Mozambique. (OCHA, 26 Nov 2018).

Since the start of the 2018/19 cropping season in October, anomalous dry conditions have developed across parts of Southern Africa, with more intense moisture deficits registered in Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, in addition to the western parts of Madagascar. Although there are a few months remaining in the cropping season, with the main harvest period usually commencing in April, the impact of the reduced rains is expected to have caused a contraction in the area planted and lowered yield prospects, particularly in the aforementioned areas. Heavier rainfall since mid‑December provided some respite and helped to alleviate moisture deficits, but concurrently resulted in localized flooding in parts of Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. (GIEWS, 22 Jan 2019).

Approximately 10.8 million people were facing severe food insecurity in Southern Africa as 2018 came to an end. In Eswatini, the estimated number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse food insecurity more than doubled from 120,000 in October to nearly 250,000 in December. In Zimbabwe, where 2.4 million people in rural areas were severely food insecure, the deteriorating economic situation caused sharp price increases and hampered access to food and agricultural inputs. Shortages of basic food commodities in formal markets, including cooking oil, sugar and bread, were reported, especially in remote areas. In Mozambique, more than 1.78 million people were in IPC phase 3 or above across the country, of whom 814,000 people in five provinces were prioritized for urgent humanitarian assistance. Further attacks by non-state armed actors were reported in Cabo Delgado province in November, increasing food security and malnutrition concerns. Meanwhile, in Madagascar, a Flash Appeal was launched to galvanize funding for rapid response in the Grand Sud region, where 890,000 people are severely food insecure. (OCHA, 22 Jan 2019).

FEWS NET anticipates the next lean season will most likely start atypically early in August/September in several areas of the region, and households will have limited purchasing power due to lower incomes. Additionally, household access to milk will be lower than normal driven by poor livestock body conditions. Consequently, atypically high levels of acute food insecurity are likely during the 2019/20 lean season in most countries across the region, except in Madagascar, Malawi, and northern Mozambique. Atypically high needs will also be driven by conflict in DRC and poor macroeconomic conditions in Zimbabwe. Although outcomes are not expected to be as severe as those following the 2015/16 drought, humanitarian partners should prepare for a likely earlier than normal start to the 2019/20 lean season and higher than normal food assistance needs during this time. (FEWS NET, 1 Feb 2019).

President Hage Geingob [of Namibia] yesterday declared the current drought affecting 23 arid and semi-arid counties and pockets of other areas a national disaster. Since 2013, most parts of Namibia recorded below normal rainfall, thereby leaving the grazing land exhausted and with little recovery. (New Era, 7 May 2019).

An estimated 41.2 million people in 13 SADC Member States are food insecure this year. When comparing the 11 Member States that provided data last year, food insecurity increased by 28%. It is also 7.4% higher than it was during the severe El Niño-induced drought of 2016/17. (SADC, 11 Jul 2019).

The overall food security situation in the region is deteriorating and the number of severely food insecure people is rising in some countries, reaching a peak between October 2019 and March 2020. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes prevail in cyclone-affected areas of Mozambique and Zimbabwe and areas significantly affected by the drought and the deteriorating macro-economic context in Zimbabwe. Emergency (IPC 4) outcomes prevail in parts of Southern Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique and Eswatini. Poor crop performance due to variable and late rainfall affected significant portions of Lesotho, Eswatini, southern Madagascar, and southern Namibia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, while the impact of cyclones Idai and Kenneth caused damage and destruction to harvests in eastern Zimbabwe, southern Malawi, and central and north Mozambique. (ECHO, 4 Sep 2019).

A record 45 million people across the 16-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) will be severely food insecure in the next six months, United Nations food agencies have warned ... There are more than 11 million people now experiencing “crisis” or “emergency” levels of food insecurity (IPC Phases 3 and 4 in nine Southern African countries: Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Eswatini and Lesotho ... The UN food agencies are escalating their responses across the nine countries, planning to assist more than 11 million people by mid-2020. In addition to addressing urgent food and nutrition needs, they will help smallholder farmers boost production and reduce losses, manage precious soil and water resources in a sustainable way and embrace climate-smart agricultural practices, better access to inputs, credit and markets, and spearhead vaccination campaigns to contain livestock disease. (IFAD, FAO, WFP, 31 Oct 2019).

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a US$3.39 million contribution from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to help meet the immediate food needs of drought-affected people in Zambia. The US support confirmed in December 2019, comes at a moment of increasing needs, after drought and prolonged dry spells have left 2.3 million people severely food insecure and in need of assistance. Through this funding, WFP will deliver 2,380 MT of pulses to complement the Government’s maize for three months, giving 255,000 drought-affected people across the country the food and nutritional assistance they need. (WFP, 6 Jan 2020)

A record 45 million Southern Africans are food insecure as the region enters the peak of the lean season (January-March 2020) (WFP, 14 Jan 2020)

Between October 2019 and March 2020, an estimated 430,000 people are facing severe acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3+) and require urgent humanitarian action. (IPC, 23 Jan 2020)

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