SADC countries need US$3bn to avert hunger

Sifelani Tsiko
SADC countries will need close to US$3 billion to deal with food shortages in the 2016- 2017 period following widespread droughts and flooding due to El Nino weather effects.

Figures gleaned from Government reports and other humanitarian agencies indicate that Zimbabwe will require US$1,6 billion, Botswana (US$123 million), Swaziland (US$274 million), Mozambique (US$1,8 million), Lesotho (US$37 million), Namibia (US$60 million), Malawi (US$190 million) and Angola (US$26 million) for drought relief as most countries in the region suffer the worst drought in memory.

Governments have funding gaps ranging from 40 to 60 percent and have appealed to international humanitarian agencies for immediate and short-term support to avert starvation.

The estimated US$3 billion figure excludes figures for South Africa, Zambia, Tanzania, DRC and three other island nations who are part of the 15-member economic bloc.

Up to 50 million people face starvation as the worst drought in decades sweeps across the entire Southern Africa region, destroying crops and livestock, driving up grain prices and leaving millions of the poor hungry.

According to the UN World Food Programme, the region has experienced massive crop failures largely as a result of the El Nino-induced drought.

Most governments in the region have already drawn drought action plans and courted international donors to mobilise support for the poor, who are the hardest hit. SADC countries have been ravaged by an El Nino, which climate scientists describe as a natural climate phenomenon that happens roughly every four years, linked to abnormally high ocean temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific. Experts say it increases the risk of extreme weather from droughts to floods to cyclones.

According to media reports, the Namibian government allocated a total of N$916 million (US$60 million) for drought relief between April 2015 to March this year. Close to half-a-million Namibians are benefiting from drought intervention support put in place by the government.

Swaziland premier Barnabas Dlamini declaring a national emergency recently, said the kingdom nation needs US$16 million over the next two months and up to 2 billion euros to address the situation over the next five years. The drought caused has severely affected Swaziland, resulting in the loss of more than 40 000 herd of cattle with more than 300 000 people in the country (about 25 percent of the population) facing severe food shortages.

Last December, Botswana’s finance ministry presented a supplementary budget to parliament, saying it needed an additional $123,28 million for the 2015/16 financial year to fund measures to mitigate against water and power shortages. The bulk of the money — 821 million pula — will be allocated to the state power utility to fund electricity imports and coal purchases, according to estimates contained in the supplementary budget.

A total of 192 million pula will be provided to the Water Utilities Corporation (WUC) to replace leaking pipes, which have been blamed for shortages in the capital Gaborone.

Botswana has re-introduced water rationing as the country struggles to cope with the drought ravaging most parts of southern Africa.

Mozambique, which is one of the most vulnerable countries in the SADC region and is regularly battered by floods, cyclones and droughts needs US$,8 million to support urgent humanitarian relief operations, an NGO reported. This year, the southern African country, which has a coastline spanning 2 470km, experienced floods in the north and drought in the south.

According to a report by SETSAN (National Secretariat Food Security) published in January 2016, a total of 176 000 people are facing worrying food insecurity while an additional 575 000 people are at risk of food insecurity by March 2016. More than 50 360 people are currently receiving food aid. The worst hit province is Gaza province, with more 77 375 people facing acute food shortages. By the end of March, relief agencies say the figure will rise to 400 000 and up to 1,8 million in the period leading to 2017. The UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) is contributing £11,8 million over three years to respond to climate-related emergencies in Mozambique. This will cover food aid, water and livelihoods.

Zimbabwe, which has already declared the drought a national disaster, says it will need $1,6 billion to feed three million people — about a quarter of the population — after the worst drought in more than two decades damaged crops and killed thousands of livestock.

The country has secured 150 000 tonnes of maize from Zambia and 500 000 tonnes from Ukraine.

The Government says it has secured funding from the Exim Bank of China and procured more than 650 000 tonnes of maize to avert starvation. A senior Government official says logistics are underway to transport the maize.

In recent weeks, the Lesotho government met development partners to lobby support for dealing with a drought that is going to cost the country more R500 million.

Analysts say more than a third of the country’s population is affected by the drought and, to deal with it, Lesotho is likely to turn to South Africa for assistance. According to the World Food Programme, Lesotho has set aside R150 million for drought relief but still wants another R345 million. Other development agency reports indicate that Lesotho needed US$37 million but government had US$9,6 million.

Lesotho needs some of this money for constructing temporary water reservoirs and distributing water while the other would go towards health services to deal with water-borne diseases and enhancing access to potable water.

The HIV pandemic has compounded the situation for this country where harsh weather conditions are pushing the coping mechanisms of families already devastated by the effects of HIV and AIDS to breaking point.

Malawi is also facing the worst food crisis in nine years, with 2,8 million people at risk of hunger while cases of severe acute malnutrition have doubled in just two months, from December 2015 to January 2016, according to Unicef.

The government in a Unicef appeal says it will need nearly US$190 million to support drought relief operations this year and in the coming season.

The appeal was put at US$132 million with an additional funding requirement of 44 percent. The UK has since last October assisted with humanitarian support estimated at £14,5 million. This covered food packages and medical supplies to help Malawi’s most vulnerable families survive one of the country’s worst food shortage crises in over a decade.

In Angola, an estimated 1,4 million people are affected by extreme weather conditions and 800 000 people are facing food insecurity, mainly in the semi-arid southern provinces.

The country urgently needs US$26 million and the figure may rise if the conditions do not improve by end of March when the season ends.

Zambia has sufficient maize grain reserves but the government has pro-actively planned for the importation of maize in the event that the country suffered crop failure due to inconsistent rainfall. The country’s Food Reserve Agency (FRA) has adequate maize stocks to last up to July or August this year.

South Africa, the continent’s biggest maize producer, suffering the worst drought in memory, will need to import up to five million tonnes of maize between May this year and April 2017.

March 2016
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