THE number of food-insecure people in Southern Africa is projected to peak at 12.5 million through March 2020 – an increase of 15% compared with the same time last year and the second-highest number on record after the 2015/16 El Niño weather phenomenon in the subregion.
This is according to a newly released report by the United Nations (UN), titled “Early Warning Early Action Report January – March 2020”.
The report focuses on Food Security and Agriculture, and provides a quarterly forward-looking analysis of major disaster risks to food security and agriculture.
It is reported that the rainy season across Southern Africa in 2018/19 was one of the driest on record for nearly 40 years, particularly in southern Angola, north-western Botswana, western Madagascar, Namibia, southern Zambia and north-western Zimbabwe.
The report further noted that the severe drought has resulted in below-average regional cereal output and increasing food insecurity across many countries, while ongoing low rainfall so far this season has considerably slowed vegetation regeneration, including pasture, across many countries.
“Livestock conditions are poor across southern and central areas of the region and there are reports of unusually high numbers of drought-related livestock deaths, in particular in southern in southern Angola, northern Namibia, and southern Zimbabwe,” the report cited.
The UN added that the significant deterioration in food security conditions is mainly due to reduced harvests that have cut household food stocks, a lack of casual labour opportunities and increasing food prices have further affected rural households’ purchasing power to access food from markets.
The largest increases in food insecurity were registered in Zambia and Zimbabwe, where the number of people in need of assistance is projected to more than double on a yearly basis.
The Assessment Committee, stated that between January and March 2020, 2.3 million people are projected to be food insecure in Zambia and 5.5 million people in Zimbabwe. In Lesotho, the majority of households are facing crisis.
Given the ongoing depletion of food stocks and above-average prices, notable improvements in food security conditions are not expected before March 2020.
“Dry conditions during the second half of the rainy season (January–March) are likely to lead to a further decrease in crop yields and the drying up of community watering points, which could affect crop and livestock production for another consecutive season. Agriculture-related income for poor households is likely to be affected throughout the cropping season, which will affect purchasing power and access to food from markets.
Distribute animal feed and mineral supplements to vulnerable pastoralists and livestock keepers to protect core breeding stock, especially in Namibia and western Zimbabwe,” the UN advised.