Over 52 million people in Africa face acute food shortage as a result of weather extremes that have hit the continent.
This was revealed at the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (Amcen) in Durban, South Africa last week, which discussed the future of Africa’s environmental sustainability and prosperity.
Over 18 countries across southern, eastern and central Africa are facing up to crisis levels of hunger as a result of weather extremes, compounded by poverty and conflict.
Locally, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Mvac) report issued in October this year indicates that over 1.1 million Malawians will need urgent food to avert hunger.
During the five-day meeting which ended on Friday, Oxfam’s Southern Africa regional director Nellie Nyang’wa said the drought has been compounded by climate shocks and has disproportionately affected women and girls.
She said: “We are witnessing millions of already poor people facing extreme food insecurity and exhausting their reserves because of compounding climate shocks that hit already vulnerable communities hardest. They need help urgently. The scale of the drought devastation across southern Africa is staggering.”
Nyang’wa has since urged ministers to demand industrial to nations honour their promises to avoid escalating human and financial costs and to pay for damages.
Oxfam is providing humanitarian response in Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
On her part, Oxfam Horn, East and Central Africa regional director Lydia Zigomo observed that nearly seven million people in the region are living below the hunger line.
She said: “In western Kenya, the crop harvest is 25 percent down and in parts of Somalia up to 60 percent. Livestock in many rural areas are emaciated and milk production is down. Cereal prices in some areas have rocketed up to five-year highs, pricing out poorer people. Nearly seven million people in the region are living just below the catastrophic hunger line.”
“It was a vicious cycle where poor and marginalised communities, mostly women and girls, are more exposed to the climate crisis and less able to cope and recover from its harm.”
Among the affected, millions are displaced and women and girls are hardest hit by the crisis which has been compounded by conflicts, poverty and inequality.
Drought has hit the East and Horn of Africa particularly Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia while record-breaking temperatures in the Indian Ocean have dumped ultra-heavy rainfall into Kenya and South Sudan, causing flash-flooding especially along major river arteries.
South Sudan has declared a state of emergency with over 900 000 people hit by floods.
Across the continent, 7.6 million people were displaced by conflict in the first six months of 2019, and another 2.6 million by extreme weather. Oxfam has noted that over the last decade, these 18 African countries have collectively suffered average annual losses of $700 million (about K520 billion) from climate-related disasters and this is without counting the cost of these latest crises.