Millions in southern Africa at risk unless funding is forthcoming, say humanitarian agencies

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, 28 July 2016 – Humanitarian agencies in southern Africa have called on donors to release urgently-needed funds to save the lives and sustain the livelihoods of millions of people affected by a severe El Niño-induced drought in the region. It is estimated that as many as 18 million people will require emergency assistance in the coming months and up until the next harvest in 2017. The agencies, as part of the Regional Inter-Agency Standing Committee (RIASCO), require US$1.2 billion to provide critical aid now and until March 2017 in response to the region’s worst drought in 35 years, of which only 16 per cent has been received.

Having been declared a disaster by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) earlier this week, the drought has contributed to a 9.3 million ton regional shortfall in cereal production and hundreds of thousands of livestock deaths. An estimated 579,000 children are in need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition this year. The RIASCO Action Plan appeal seeks to support the recently launched SADC Appeal.

“Droughts, like the one caused this year by El Niño, are becoming more frequent and more severe, and the trend can be expected to continue if necessary action isn’t taken swiftly”, said to Mr. Timo Pakkala, El Niño Coordinator for the Southern Africa Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “The time to act is now. The international community must fully fund the RIASCO Action Plan, to not only save lives now but also ensure that all efforts are taken to prevent crises of this scale happening again.”

Families in many parts of the region are exhausting any remaining food stocks earlier than usual due to poor or failed harvests. The decline in access to safe drinking water also has widespread consequences, including on health and education. With at least 70 per cent of Southern Africans relying on agriculture-based livelihoods, it is essential provide seeds and fertilizers for the next planting season, which starts in October 2016.

“We are at a critical point. People are being pushed to the brink and national governments are struggling to meet everyone’s needs. If donors continue to delay, millions of people will suffer and hard-won development gains will be reversed,” says Emma Naylor-Ngugi, CARE’s Regional Director. “Governments have to stop looking the other way and act before it is too late. We have the expertise to help people survive and build their climate resilience and capacity to respond to future shocks. Donors need to realize the urgency and help humanitarian organizations to do their work effectively.”

The humanitarian response has been ongoing since 2015, but the urgently needed scale-up to assist the most vulnerable people in the region is dependent on additional funds.



Darcy Knoll
Communications Specialist | CARE Canada | +1.613.228.5641