Southern Africa: Food Security Crisis

Southern Africa is facing a major food security crisis following successive years of drought, most recently as a result of the El NiAo weather event which meant reduced rains for the region’s crucial 2015-16 agricultural season. Many countries experienced poor or failed harvests in April this year, leaving millions of people with little or no food to sustain them till next year’s harvest.

Preliminary results from the annual vulnerability assessments released by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) indicate that some 33 million in the region’s countries worst-hit by drought will be food insecure at the height of the lean season later this year and into 2017. It is estimated that some 18 million people in these countries now need urgent food assistance.

WFP has categorized the southern Africa region as a Level 3 Corporate Response, with immediate effect until September 2016. Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have declared national states of emergency due to drought. Namibia has also declared a drought disaster and all but one of South Africa’s nine provinces, which account for 90 percent of the country’s maize production, have been declared drought disaster areas.

WFP is rapidly scaling up life-saving operations for the most vulnerable communities in the worst-affected countries. WFP is working to reach growing numbers of people with food and cash-based relief while strengthening resilience building. By January 2017, WFP aims to assist some 11.5 million drought-affected people in the region through a combination of programmes. The balance of needs are expected to be addressed by both governments and non-government counterparts.

WFP urgently needs to secure US $ 200 million to meet needs between October and December, including for transport and pre-positioning of food in areas likely to get cut off once the rainy season begins in November. Over the next 12 months, WFP is facing an overall shortfall of US $ 610 million (more than 80 percent shortfall).


Results from the 2016 SADC Vulnerability Assessment results indicate that 709,000 people – a third of the population – are food insecure and that 491,000 need emergency assistance. Prevalence of HIV/AIDS has climbed from 23 to 25 percent of the population and cases of acute malnutrition have flared above the 2.7 percent national average. WFP has started both cash and food assistance to 263,000 people in the most affected areas. Read more.


Results from the 2016 SADC Vulnerability Assessment indicate that 1.1 million people are food insecure and that 665,000 people need emergency assistance in the south of the island which has suffered three consecutive years of drought (these numbers are projections). WFP is targeting vulnerable people in the worst-hit parts of south Madagascar with a combination of food and cash-based assistance. WFP is also scaling up supplementary feeding to prevent malnutrition among children. In February 2016, acute malnutrition rates reached an average eight percent among the most severely food insecure children. Read more.


Some 6.5 million people – 39 percent of the population – need emergency food assistance, according to the 2016 SADC Vulnerability Assessment results. This is necessitating the largest humanitarian response ever in the country’s history. WFP will target at least 4.5 million people with a mix of food and cash-based assistance linked increasingly with the creation of productive assets such as community vegetable gardens and irrigation systems. Funding is urgently required to pre-position food stocks in remote areas ahead of the November rains and so that lives and livelihoods can be protected. Parts of the drought-affected south are also prone to flooding during the rainy season. Read more.


Nearly 2 million people are in need of emergency food assistance, according to the 2016 SADC Vulnerability Assessment results (this number is a projection). Of this number, WFP aims to reach 700,000 of the most vulnerable people who are unable to access food to meet their daily needs, through to April 2017. Poor harvests, combined with currency devaluations, have resulted in a staggering 148 percent increase in the price of white maize. Recent surveys show alarming levels of acute malnutrition in the provinces of Tete, Sofala and Manica. Read more.


Results from the 2016 SADC Vulnerability Assessment indicate that 350,000 people – one third of the population – are in need of emergency assistance. Water sources have declined by more than 50 percent due to lack of rain. WFP is scaling up its emergency relief operation to reach 100,000 vulnerable people in the most severely affected areas of the country by the end of the year and an additional 50,000 people with cash-based transfers. Swaziland has a very high prevalence of HIV/AIDS – 26 percent among the adult population (15-49 years). Findings from a comprehensive joint health and nutrition assessment in March revealed a deterioration in the health status of people living with HIV/AIDS. Read more.


The 2016 SADC Vulnerability Assessment results show that more than 4 million people – 44 percent of the rural population – are in need of emergency food assistance. Malnutrion has reached or exceeded emergency in a number of districts. WFP is working to provide food and cash assistance to 1.3 million of the most vulnerable people, scaling up to 2.2 million by January 2017. As much as is possible, food assistance is being integrated with food- or cash-for-work programmes involving the creation or repair of water harvesting and irrigation systems. Also, in collaboration with the government, WFP is initiating an emergency school feeding programme as a short term safety net.

Source: World Food Programme