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ECHO Factsheet – Southern Africa and Indian Ocean – Last updated 16/01/2020

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Climatic shocks, on top of economic and political challenges, continue to affect millions of people in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region. Because of poor rainfall and failed harvests, extensive areas are currently suffering from a severe drought that is straining food availability. Earlier in 2019, two destructive cyclones left over 3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Early warning systems and early action can reduce the impact of natural disasters. In addition to providing life-saving assistance, the EU is supporting efforts to strengthen the capacity of communities and disaster management authorities to deal with recurrent natural disasters.

What are the needs?

Extreme weather events are a regular occurrence in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region. They are becoming all the more frequent and intense as a result of climate change.

The food and nutrition situation in the region has deteriorated as households are grappling with the impact of recurrent disasters that have severely damaged their harvests and access to food, giving them little time to recover. Nearly 12 million people are currently at risk of hunger because of prolonged periods of below average rainfall, interspersed with floods and destructive cyclones, on top of the economic challenges weighing on some countries in the region.

Large parts of Southeast Africa are currently wrestling with a harsh spell of drought. Its effects are being particularly felt by rural communities in Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In 2019, the region has received its lowest seasonal rainfall on record since 1981, when measurements first started to be kept. Zimbabwe, where the drought comes on top of an economic meltdown, is among the four countries in the world suffering most from food shortages. 7.7 million people, half of the country’s population, are at risk of facing severe hunger, placing Zimbabwe among the states facing one of the worst food crises in the world. Zambia – the second biggest grain supplier in the region – is experiencing, for the first time in many years, a production deficit of cereals and its highest number of people who are at risk of food shortages. In Mozambique, nearly 2 million people are threatened by hunger.

Earlier in 2019, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Comoros were hit by destructive cyclones that left another 3 million people in need of emergency assistance and claimed more than 950 lives. Countless others lost their homes, food sources and livelihoods. Some families in Mozambique and Zimbabwe still have not been able to return to their homes and are living in camps.

How are we helping?

EU funding in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region goes towards emergency relief response, food assistance and disaster preparedness. Since January 2019, the EU has supported humanitarian action in the region with €67.8 million in funding.

Through its humanitarian funding, the EU prioritises provision of swift aid in the form of emergency cash grants to vulnerable people affected by sudden disasters. This saves people from having to sell their possessions when food runs out, only to find themselves even less able to cope with the next disaster.

In response to the current drought hitting the region, the EU is helping address food and nutrition needs in the affected areas and support vulnerable people in Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The EU also mobilised immediate relief assistance to Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Comoros in the wake of cyclones Idai and Kenneth to help provide food, shelter, health care and access to clean water to affected communities, as well as logistics support to reach isolated and cut-off areas. In addition, in response to the devastation left by Cyclone Idai, civil protection teams from several EU countries were deployed to Mozambique through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in what was one of the largest mobilisations of the Mechanism outside the EU.

Beyond providing life-saving emergency assistance, on 1 June 2019, the EU pledged an additional €200 million at the International Donors Pledging Conference in Mozambique to help the country in its recovery efforts and in strengthening its resilience.

Preparedness and prompt action can reduce the impact of natural disasters and help avert loss of life, livelihoods and property. In this logic, the EU supports actions that step up the capacity of communities, and local and national disaster management authorities to prepare for and respond to disasters. Several EU-funded projects use technology and innovative approaches, such as drones – used in the Idai response in Mozambique and Malawi - to map high-risk areas, or mobile text messages to warn communities of impending dangers. Increasing attention is given to disaster preparedness in schools through promotion of safe learning facilities, training of teachers in early warning, and informing children on how to stay safe.