Drought affects over 52 million Africans

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Hard times… This image of a parched riverbed illustrates the devastating impact of the recurrent drought that has caused widespread food insecurity across the African continent and beyond.

Windhoek

World Humanitarian Day, commemorated on 19 August each year, is a time to recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others.

Due to the drought’s far-reaching impacts warranting specialised humanitarian intervention, the United Nations System in Namibia (UN Namibia) is encouraging the public to stand with the UN Namibia against the recurrent drought that resulted in a successive crop failures.

Humanitarian and development partners estimate that over 52 million people will be food insecure in east and southern African countries and that this number could rise, according to Nicola Gallagher from the UNIC office in Windhoek.

Drought poses a growing threat to Sub-Saharan African populations due to a combination of factors, including population growth, higher exposure to hazards, increased socio-economic and environmental vulnerability in poorest countries, as well as increased frequency, intensity and duration of droughts, also exacerbated by climate change, Gallagher said in a statement.

“Namibia, a semi-arid country prone to climate variability, has seen persistent drought for the past four years. As a result of the drought, as well as poor, erratic rains and prolonged dry spells, the country is also facing a water crisis,” she further said on Thursday.

Drought affects one of the very basic needs for the survival of people, which is food. When drought hits, its first and direct impact is on agriculture, which supports the livelihoods of more than 60% of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Therefore, response aid is not enough: a longer term approach is required to build the resilience of the most vulnerable.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlight the diverse issues that the drought has caused in Namibia. However, without the active participation of the public these goals will not be achieved.

The SDGs accord primacy to people, planet and prosperity. SDG 13 calls for strengthening resilience to climate change. SDG 11 and the Sendai Framework (make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable) call for an inclusive and sustainable approach to disaster risk reduction. Together they focus on resource mobilisation, mitigation, adaptation to climate change and resilience building.

The government, with the support of UN Namibia is implementing clear policy directives. These include mainstreaming climate change adaptation, disaster risk reduction, and food and livelihood security, into development planning.

Work is also underway to raise awareness. A knowledge management strategy is also in place.
Agencies, such as UNDP and FAO, work specifically to combat and mitigate the effects of the drought. Through the FAO Southern Africa El Niño Response Plan (ENRP), FAO works closely with governments in the region to ensure food insecurity is addressed and drought-resilient agriculture methods implemented.

UNDP provides technical assistance for the development of early recovery and resilience building strategies for the mainstreaming of disaster risk-reduction and climate change adaptation in the government recovery frameworks.

All Namibians can make small changes in their daily lives to help achieve the SDGs. Whether that means taking a shorter showers, recycling used materials, or generating awareness about Namibia’s drought, the opportunities are endless.

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