The Climate Prediction Centre is predicting El Niño climatic conditions during the main 2018-19 growing season with 70-75% probability while IRI has increased the probability to more than 85%. Furthermore, the forecasts suggest a likelihood of a weak to moderate El Niño event. Historically El Niño climatic conditions have resulted in reduced rainfall across the southern part of Southern Africa.
The SARCOF forecast is also predicting an enhanced chance of normal to below normal rainfall, and normal to above-normal temperatures across most parts of the region. This forecast aligns with typically experienced El Niño impacts.
The likely impact is a reduction is agricultural production to 18-30 per cent below the 5-year average as well as increased livestock losses. This is expected to result in increased food insecurity.
Historic evidence suggest that the humanitarian impact extends beyond food insecurity; with a risk of increasing levels of acute malnutrition in the short term and chronic malnutrition in the medium to longer term and difficulty in accessing water as well as higher school drop-out rates, increased incidence of communicable diseases, and rural to urban migration. The impact is compounded by the below average rainfall and harvest in the 2017/18 season, leading to limited carry-over stocks and chronic vulnerability in many of the affected countries.
To mitigate the immediate impact governments and partners should encourage farmers to diversify crop production with drought- and disease-tolerant crops, early maturing crops and high-yield varieties. In addition, they should advocate for water conservation and harvesting techniques for improved accessibility and availability and the adoption of staggered planting dates for crops. Increased investment in irrigation is also encouraged. Some water reservoirs and irrigation systems need to be rehabilitated to improve and maximize irrigation in farming activities. Likewise, the use of water harvesting technologies should be intensified to fully utilize rains and reduce the negative impacts of dry spells. Promotion of optimal infant and young child feeding practices, especially breastfeeding, good sanitation and hygiene practices, ensuring children are fully vaccinated, and extending community screening and referral of malnourished children will also help to protect children against undernutrition.
Where markets are functioning and basic supplies are readily available, governments and partners can provide emergency cash assistance through existing systems. The region has a basic network of safety nets that provide cash and non-cash to the most vulnerable, though efficiency, coverage, and targeting can be improved.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.