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RIASCO Humanitarian Outlook for Southern Africa - November 2017 to April 2018



Southern Africa continues to recover from the 2015/2016 El Niño-induced drought, which by January 2017 had affected about 41 million people across the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)1. The substantial government- and SADC-led response, supported by $900 million from the international humanitarian community2, empowered farmers to take advantage of a good 2016/2017 rainfall season, delivering an April 2017 cereal harvest 3 per cent above the 5-year average.

However, at least 5 million people across the region continue to require emergency humanitarian assistance3. Most Southern Africans rely on rain-fed subsistence farming, which is vulnerable to even the slightest shock, attested to by high levels of child malnutrition4. New outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza are impacting poultry and wild bird populations. The Fall Armyworm (FAW), a new pest to the region, has the potential to cause widespread crop damage and has already been reported in 11 SADC countries.

Normal to above-normal rainfall is predicted for the second half of the upcoming rainy season (January to March 2018). While conducive to agricultural production, the rains will inevitably lead to flooding, and tropical cyclones will likely affect Indian Ocean Countries. Most at risk of flooding are Mozambique, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Swaziland and Malawi. Cholera is endemic to several Southern African countries, and flooding will exacerbate poor water and sanitation conditions, which in Madagascar is contributing to an unprecedented urban plague outbreak. New and old conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continue to affect Southern and Eastern Africa as people cross international borders in search of safety.

The population of SADC has doubled since 1990 to about 333 million people5. Over the past six years the region has recorded economic growth of around 4.4 per cent6, which is far below the SADC growth target. Yet even this meagre growth does not necessarily improve the lives of the most vulnerable in society. As summarized by the African Development Bank in their 2015 flagship report: “Poverty and inequality reduction has remained less responsive to growth successes...Africa’s recent economic growth has not been accompanied by a real structural transformation”7. Southern Africa accounts for six of the world’s 10 most unequal countries8. The region remains the global epicenter of the HIV epidemic with 8 countries having a prevalence above 10 per cent.

Malnutrition remains high in the region, with 13 of the 15 countries reporting stunting prevalence above 20 per cent, and 7 countries reporting stunting prevalence above 30 per cent. Similarly, prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) is >5 per cent in 8 of 15 countries in the region, with the highest reported national prevalence in Madagascar at 8.6 per cent9 (13.9 per cent at district level)10. Prevalence of acute malnutrition and admissions are expected to increase in the region as a result of the lean season from October through March and partners are preparing contingency plans including nutrition response activities for the upcoming lean season.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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