12.5m in SADC face hunger

The rainy season across southern Africa in 2018/19 was one of the driest on record for nearly 40 years, including in Namibia.

23 January 2020 | Disasters

The number of food insecure people in southern Africa is projected to peak at 12.5 million through March 2020, an increase of 15% compared to the same time last year.

This will be the second highest number of food insecure people on record in the sub-region after the 2015/16 El Niño weather phenomenon occurred.

This is according to the Early Warning Early Action (EWEA) report by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

It provides a quarterly forward-looking analysis of major disaster risks to food security and agriculture.

The report specifically highlights potential new emergencies resulting from imminent disaster threats and new developments in countries already affected by protracted crises, which are likely to cause a further deterioration of food insecurity.

The report makes several recommendations also focusing on Namibia to proactively mitigate and prevent disasters before they adversely impact food security.

“Given the ongoing depletion of food stocks and above-average prices, notable improvements in food security conditions are not expected before March 2020. Furthermore, below-average rainfall was recorded from the start of the rainy season up to December 2019.”

The report says agriculture-related income for poor households is likely to be affected throughout the cropping season, which will affect purchasing power and access to food from markets.

The rainy season across southern Africa in 2018/19 was one of the driest on record for nearly 40 years, particularly in southern Angola, north-western Botswana, western Madagascar, Namibia, southern Zambia and north-western Zimbabwe, according to the report.

It says the severe drought resulted in below-average regional cereal output and increasing food insecurity across many countries, while ongoing low rainfall so far this season has considerably slowed vegetation regeneration across many countries.

“Livestock conditions are poor across southern and central areas of the region and there are reports of unusually high numbers of drought-related livestock deaths, in particular in southern Angola, northern Namibia and southern Zimbabwe.”

The report further pointed out that the significant deterioration in food security conditions is mainly due to reduced harvests that have cut household food stocks.

It says a lack of casual labour opportunities and increasing food prices have further affected rural households' purchasing power to access food from markets.

Between January and March, early action to support off-season crop production and livestock health could mitigate the impact of a forecasted second consecutive poor rainy season, and prevent further deterioration of food insecurity across southern Africa, the report advised. Priority countries include Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

It recommended that hand and solar water pumps combined with seed distributions (vegetable and other crops) should be installed and training on water management should take place to support off-season production in vulnerable areas potentially affected by rainfall deficits. Water points that were potentially affected by rainfall deficits in the most vulnerable communities should be rehabilitated, the report further said.

“Distribute animal feed and mineral supplements to vulnerable pastoralists and livestock keepers to protect core breeding stock, especially in Namibia and western Zimbabwe.” The report also recommended that emergency treatment and vaccinations should be provided as soon as possible before further depletion of water points and a consequent increase in risk of transboundary animal diseases due to migration.

ELLANIE SMIT

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