Droughts and floods threaten ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ across southern Africa

Droughts and floods threaten ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ across southern Africa

Droughts and floods have wreaked havoc across southern Africa, threatening a humanitarian catastrophe. The harsh weather has decimated harvests in regions where 70 percent of the population relies on agriculture for their livelihood.

Executive Director McCain described the situation as both alarming and heartbreaking. “I met farmers who usually grow enough to feed their families and communities. This year, they harvested nothing. Now imagine this scenario affecting millions of people throughout Southern Africa; it’s a humanitarian catastrophe,” she said.

Impact of El Niño

The recent El Niño weather pattern, though nearing its end, has caused severe droughts with lasting impacts. February saw the driest conditions in decades, leading to a 20 percent reduction in essential rainfall for crops.

The hardest-hit countries—Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Malawi—have all declared states of drought disaster, facing substantial crop losses with 40 to 80 percent of their maize harvests destroyed.

Call for Immediate Action

Acknowledging the 61 million people affected by El Niño, the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have launched a $5.5 billion humanitarian appeal. This appeal is meant to supplement the internal resources of the affected nations.

McCain has urged the international community to provide immediate support. “We can’t ask millions to wait for the next harvest season—a year from now—to put food on their tables. These families need our support today as we work towards building a more resilient future,” she emphasized.

Funding Needs and Efforts

The World Food Programme (WFP) has been active in responding to the crisis but still requires $409 million to provide six months of aid to 4.8 million people in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The WFP has collaborated with governments and partners to prepare communities for climate disasters. This includes unlocking over $14 million in anticipatory finance to assist over 1.2 million people affected by El Niño in August 2023.

Additionally, the WFP has supported communities in Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe by providing early warning alerts, anticipatory cash transfers, drought-resistant seeds, agricultural training, and improved water sources.

To further aid affected communities, the WFP plans to distribute approximately $10 million in insurance payouts to nearly 280,000 people over the next six months.

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