Humanitarian Crises in Southern and Eastern Africa


Two years after the prolonged 2016/2017 drought in Eastern and Southern Africa, livelihoods in the region continue to be affected, particularly in pastoral areas.

In April 2019, FEWS NET released an alert detailing the poor progress of the March to June 2019 Gu/long rains season in East Africa and expected deterioration in food security conditions across the region. Since then, rainfall has remained well below average and has performed worse than previously expected, with the exception of southeastern Ethiopia where heavy rainfall in mid-May could begin to ease dryness in that area. Only light rainfall is forecast through June, however, and this is not expected to alleviate drought in affected areas of Kenya and Somalia. Well below-average crop production, poor livestock body conditions, and increased local food prices are anticipated, which will reduce poor households’ access to food. Deterioration to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is now expected in northern and central Somalia; deterioration to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected across southeastern Ethiopia, pastoral areas of Kenya, and parts of southern Somalia, with peak needs occurring between July and October. Humanitarian agencies are urged to immediately scale up emergency assistance planning, including food, water, and interventions to prevent expected high levels of acute malnutrition. (FEWS NET, 21 May 2019)

In South Sudan, the food security situation is projected to further deteriorate from May to July 2019, with about 6.87 million people (60 percent of the population) facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity or worse, and an estimated 50,000 people in Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5). The cumulative effects of the national and localised conflicts and population displacements contributed to insufficient crop production, with only 52 per cent of the 2019 national cereal needs met by harvests as compared to 61 per cent in 2018. In addition, conflict has disrupted households’ access to natural food sources including wild foods and livestock. A total of 860,168 children are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition in 2019. (IPC, 22 Feb 2019)

The 2018/19 season also saw an unprecedented event of back-to-back cyclones (Idai and Kenneth) striking Mozambique. As a result, parts of northern and central Mozambique received significantly above-average rainfall, leading to widespread and unprecedented flooding. Cyclone Idai also affected southern Malawi and eastern Zimbabwe, and Cyclone Kenneth also brought above-average rainfall to southeastern Tanzania. Overall, there has been a reduction in planted area and wilting of crops in drought-affected areas, and damage to standing crop awaiting harvesting in cyclone-affected areas. Reduced planted area and reduced yield/crop failure in multiple parts of the region, combined with crop destruction due to flooding in other areas, is likely to result in tighter regional supply and deterioration of the food security situation in the upcoming 2019/20 consumption year. (WFP, 16 May 2019).

Communities across Southern Africa are on the frontier of the global climate crisis. The region is warming at about twice the global rate and has been buffeted by multiple and compounding shocks. Millions of families are still recovering from the devastating consequences of Tropical Cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which impacted the Comoros, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe earlier this year. At the same time, many areas are now in the grip of a destructive drought, including in Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique and Zambia. Namibia and Mozambique have both extended their national drought emergencies to March 2020, while Lesotho declared a new drought emergency in October. Humanitarian needs are rapidly rising as the lean season deepens and some 12 million people in nine countries across the region are experiencing severe food insecurity. (OCHA, 6 Dec 2019)

Meanwhile, eastern Africa is experiencing unusually heavy rainfall ... primarily driven by the positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). Although the IOD is expected to diminish in the weeks ahead, heavy rains are likely to persist into December and to intensify in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. In many areas, the floods are coming on the back of consecutive droughts, while in others people impacted by the floods are also suffering from conflict and violence. As families struggle to cope with these compounding and complex shocks, there is a high risk of their adopting negative coping mechanisms, including school drop-out and early marriage. (OCHA, 4 Dec 2019)


Photos: OCHA/Saviano Abreu and OCHA/Rita Maingi







South Sudan



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