Zimbabwe + 4 more

More food assistance needed in Southern Africa as Zimbabwe declares a national disaster

9 February 2016, JOHANNESBURG – Zimbabwe has become the third country in Southern Africa to declare a disaster after Lesotho and Malawi amidst a prolonged drought that has resulted in food shortages. The United Nations estimates that 30 million people in the region are in dire need of food assistance. World Vision is calling on donor countries to increase the amount of food assistance available as the number of affected people is likely to increase.

Since September 2015, World Vision has provided food and cash transfers to over 800,000 people in Southern Africa who are suffering from prolonged drought caused El Niño - almost 70 per cent of them children.

The Governments of Lesotho, Swaziland and Mozambique recently increased the estimated numbers of affected populations. Malawi has suffered the effects of drought since September 2015 and in December, some areas experienced heavy rains and hailstorms. This has resulted in cholera outbreaks as well as armyworms that have destroyed hectares of crops. This will in turn increase the number of people affected by hunger.

In Zimbabwe, national media reported last week that almost 17,000 livestock deaths have been recorded. By 1 February, the Minister of Environment Water and Climate in Zimbabwe reported that 12, 000 boreholes in the country have run dry. Similar situations exist in neighbouring countries.

At the same time, World Vision revealed alarming funding gaps in their food assistance programming, in a report released late last year. When there is no food assistance, estimated that in 2014 over two million people did not receive the food assistance that they desperately needed and were promised.

To mitigate the impact of El Niño on children and families across Southern Africa, World Vision calls on all actors to fully fund the ongoing crisis, prioritising resources to protect lives and build long-term resilience in communities. Only such a response can create a hunger-free world.

“Food shortages have reached critical levels,” said Rudo Kwaramba, Southern Africa Regional Leader, World Vision. “We are likely to see more countries declaring a disaster. The current numbers will increase and those who have been surviving on the little, harvested in the last season will soon run out as a result of the El Nino induced drought. Food assistance is essential if we are to mitigate hunger and maintain the gains we have made on child well-being outcomes such as health and nutrition,” she said.

“We need to do much more, but it will require a renewed focus on a region that is often overlooked. Unfortunately the strengthening dollar, falling oil prices, the magnitude of recent harsh weather patterns has made a dire situation even worse,” explains Philippe Guiton, head of World Vision’s Emergency Response in Southern Africa.