The chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Botswanan President Ian Khama, has said he will formally launch a regional appeal for humanitarian and recovery support amounting to N$40,5 billion for 40 million people affected by drought in five SADC countries, among them Namibia.
The other SADC countries badly affected by the current drought are Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe and have already declared national drought emergencies. South Africa – usually a grain exporter – has declared a drought emergency in eight of the country’s nine provinces and Mozambique declared a 90-day institutional red alert for parts of the southern and central areas.
ReliefWeb, a news service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,
says out of 40 million people affected by the devastating El Niño-induced drought in the SADC region, more than 23 million are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
For sub-Saharan Africa, the current El Niño-induced drought is the worst in 35 years, following the failure of two consecutive rainy seasons. The severe drought conditions have already taken its toll on lives and livelihoods and the situation could deteriorate further if urgent assistance is not forthcoming.
Khama was quoted on Tuesday by ReliefWeb, saying the appeal for US$2.7 billion would be a formal request to the international community to provide assistance to affected SADC member countries.
Meanwhile a report compiled by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) predicts a heavy rain season later this year. Participants at the FAO’s latest meeting in Rome last week noted that in southern Africa a three-month “window of opportunity” exists before the 2016/17 planting season begins.
The meeting called for urgent action to restore agricultural livelihoods that have been severely damaged by the droughts associated with El Niño. The meeting thus called for adequate interventions, including agricultural input distributions that are urgently needed to avoid the reliance of millions of rural families on humanitarian assistance well into 2018.
Acting now will ensure farmers have sufficient levels of agricultural inputs for upcoming planting seasons, it was noted. More than 60 million people worldwide are estimated to be food insecure due to the impact of the El Niño climate event.
Scientists are meanwhile predicting the increasing likelihood of the opposite climate phenomenon, La Niña, developing. This will increase the probability of above average rainfall and flooding in areas affected by El Niño-related drought, whilst at the same time making it more likely that drought will occur in areas that have been flooded.
The UN estimates that without the necessary action, the number of people affected by the combined impacts of the El Niño/La Niña could top 100 million. Combined efforts to prevent further human suffering, strengthen resilience and safeguard livelihoods in the wake of El Niño’s effects must be rapidly ramped-up by governments and the international community, UN leaders said.
The heads of the three Rome-based UN agencies called for greater preparedness to deal with the possible occurrence later this year of a La Niña climate event, related to the El Niño cycle that has so severely impacted on agriculture and food security.
Participants noted almost US$4 billion is required to meet the humanitarian demands of El Niño-affected countries and that almost 80 percent of this is needed for food security and agriculture.
Furthermore, the FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and World Food Programme are redoubling efforts to mitigate the negative impacts and capitalise on positive opportunities of a likely La Niña phenomenon in the coming months.