Southern African countries have appealed for $1.1 billion (about K814 billion) to cope with the food crisis, but they have received only half of what is needed.
The agencies have since called on donors to urgently fund the United Nations (UN) humanitarian appeals to help save lives of 14.4 million people facing acute hunger, compared to six million at the same time in 2018, due to climate change shocks.
A joint statement issued yesterday by Oxfam, Care, Plan International and World Vision, the food insecurity has affected nine southern African countries, and the number of people affected is 140 percent higher than in 2018.
Oxfam Southern Africa regional director Nellie Nyang’wa said: “Our region is losing its part of the UN’s fight for ‘zero hunger by 2030’ as described in its Sustainable Development Goals because subtropical region of Southern Africa are warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and being battered by repeated weather shocks.”
Zimbabwe is the hardest hit country by proportion, with 5.8 million people facing severe food shortage across urban and rural areas. Zambia has 2.3 million people affected; Mozambique 2 million and Malawi 1.9 million.
In the past two years, the region has experienced three major cyclones, floods, a drought characterised by the lowest rainfall since 1981 in the months between October and December, as well as record warm temperatures in the first half of 2019.
“The cyclones, flash floods and droughts that in the past used to be extreme are now being suffered as ‘normal’ by our farmers. The climate crisis is not just hitting people in sudden spikes of humanitarian emergencies, but it is undermining their ability to build up their reserves and assets and resilience day by day,” Nyang’wa said.
She added that the climate crisis is ripping away coping mechanisms that people here have relied upon for generations to help see their communities and families through the lean times.
Said Nyan’gwa: “The scale of the drought devastation across southern Africa is staggering. Over the past five years, continuous failed agricultural seasons meant that countries have not had adequate time to recover and their national reserves of grains have depleted. Zimbabwe alone has had a cereal deficit of one million tonnes in the past year.”
More frequent droughts have had a devastating impact on small-scale farmers, in particular women who do the majority of agriculture in the region.
On his part, Care International deputy regional director for southern Africa Mathew Pickard said women and girls are the worst affected by drought and women often suffer disproportionally from climate change shocks.
“Women bear majority of responsibility for households including ensuring families have food and water as well as household chores and child rearing. As Care, we are making sure we provide a gender sensitive approach in our drought response and resilience programming,” he said.
Plan International regional head of disaster risk management, Stuart Katwikirize, and World Vision’s southern Africa Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs director Maxwell Sibhensana have also expressed concern with the increasing number of adolescent girls who are being married off so that the families can earn the next meal.