Red Cross: Lack of funding means starving families across southern Africa will not get the life-saving support so urgently needed

Pretoria, South Africa: 25 February 2016 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today warned that a lack of funding means it is having to scale back activities to address the food insecurity situation facing millions of families across southern Africa.

“We have the capacity, working together with National Red Cross Societies in Lesotho, Malawi, and Namibia, to do more to help families who are in dire straits in terms of their daily food intake,” said Michael Charles, acting head of the IFRC regional office in southern Africa. “But without funding, we are very limited in what we can accomplish, and it means that some projects must be cancelled.”

The IFRC has launched Emergency Appeals in Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, and Zimbabwe, totalling more than 3 million Swiss francs to provide up to 37,000 people with emergency life-saving support as they battle the effects of severe droughts and the El Niño phenomenon. The Appeals for Lesotho, Malawi and Namibia remain underfunded at 0 per cent, 50 per cent, and 9 per cent respectively.

“With funding from our partners at the Swiss Red Cross, we will be able to continue with our cash transfer programme in Malawi, albeit on a smaller scale,” Charles said. “This will allow families to purchase food staples which have greatly risen in price during this crisis. We have, however, cancelled the planned distribution of seeds and fertilizer.

“The cash means families can eat now; the seeds would mean food several months from now. Distributing cash without any long term interventions is a band-aid solution. It will help in the short term, but will still result in families living in crisis for a longer period of time.”

In Namibia, lack of funding has resulted in the cancellation of the rehabilitation of boreholes which would have provided safe drinking water to families. Without available funding for Lesotho, similar activities cannot even get off the ground.

An estimated 27.4 million people are currently food insecure across southern Africa, with drought, erratic rains and floods reducing crop yields by up to 50 per cent. In Lesotho, projections are that – due to increasing food prices and the unprecedented severity of the drought – the number of people affected will surpass that of the 2012 crisis where 750,000 people were food insecure. In Malawi, 17 per cent of the population is food insecure; in Namibia, that figure rises to 25 per cent.

“Malnutrition in children across southern Africa is already higher than acceptable levels, and is only expected to worsen,” said Charles. “Not helping these families now will have an immediate impact on the health and growth of the next generation, and affect the ability of these children to become well-functioning and successful members of society in the years to come.”