Nearly 29 million people are currently food insecure in southern Africa region mainly due to the carry-over effects of the past poor harvest season combined with other structural factors.
Southern Africa is one of the region facing the on-going El Niño event which is expected to reach its peak by end of December. The El Niño is commonly associated with delayed and decreased rainfall in the region which will reduce yields and push households to adopt negative coping strategies reinforcing chronic malnutrition which is already widespread in the region.
Unless a two-track approach is quickly taken to address the current food insecurity and to establish measures to mitigate against the El Niño effects, the existing food insecurity will deepen and increase in scope with its effects will last till 2017. While the whole region is affected specific attention is needed for Madagascar which also has high risk of cyclones, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
Maize prices are increasing unusually, by about 15-40 percent, in response to the increasing scarcity in the region. A further decline in regional cereal supplies will increase instability in markets and continue weakening food access unless measures are taken to augment regional cereal supply through imports from outside the region.
Cholera outbreaks are reported in Mozambique, Tanzania, Madagascar and DRC which would aggravate the food and nutrition security situation. Judging from the past pattern in 1997/98 when nearly 200,000 cases were reported and 12,000 deaths occurred, robust containment actions and surveillance are needed. Disease and nutrition monitoring should be strengthened and reports shared regularly to ensure there is adequate response.
Owing to the varied and unpredictable devastating effects of El Niño, member states are strongly urged to embrace a “no-regrets” approach to enhance preparedness and response in line with the recommended actions (See Table 2). The Republic of South Africa has declared disaster zones in five provinces adversely affected by drought. These are Limpopo, North-West, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Free State, where most of commercial maize is produced.