[ISSUED BY ONCHA Southern Africa]
Southern Africa is now entering the peak of the lean season following the worst El Niño-induced drought in decades. With food stocks largely depleted due to poor or failed harvests across the region, estimates of people in need of humanitarian assistance have increased by more than one million to 13.8 million, mainly due to rising needs in Madagascar, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.
“Humanitarian assistance is being scaled up throughout the region,” said Timo Pakkala, El Niño Coordinator for the Southern Africa Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “However as we enter the critical period of the crisis during the lean season, many countries are struggling to stretch funds to cover the growing needs. It is essential that humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable people is sustained through this period, and for farmers to be supported so they can resume agricultural production.”
Food shortages across the region are now severe, and are being exacerbated by a multitude of existing and increasing vulnerabilities, including weak commodity prices, unfavorable exchange rates and slow economic growth. Moreover, the region accounts for a third of all people living with HIV worldwide. The crisis is also disproportionately affecting women and children, with an increasing number of children dropping out of school due to lack of water and food, and entering child labour or early marriage. For example, in Malawi, more than 137,000 children are being forced out of school by the crisis.