Southern Africa still battles to recover from drought
Windhoek-Southern Africa is still battling to recover from the 2015/16/ El Niño-induced drought, which by last year had affected about 41 million people across the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).
The substantial government and SADC-led response, supported by about N$108 billion from the international humanitarian community, empowered farmers to take advantage of a better 2017 rainfall season, delivering an April 2017 cereal harvest three percent above the 5-year average. However, at least five million people across the region continue to require emergency humanitarian assistance.
Most Southern Africans rely on rain-fed subsistence farming, which is vulnerable to even the slightest shock, attested to by high levels of child malnutrition. 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. Namibia has also been exposed to hepatitis and cholera outbreaks recently.
The population of SADC has doubled since 1990 to about 333 million people. Over the past six years the region has recorded economic growth of around 4.4 percent, 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 summarised 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”. Southern Africa accounts for six of the world’s 10 most unequal countries. The region remains the global epicenter of the HIV epidemic with eight countries having a prevalence above 10 percent. Malnutrition remains high in the region, with 13 of the 15 countries reporting stunting prevalence above 20 percent, and seven countries reporting stunting prevalence above 30 percent. Similarly, prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) is >5 percent in eight of 15 countries in the region, with the highest reported national prevalence in Madagascar at 8.6 per cent (13.9 per cent at district level).
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.