Ukraine Conflict Affects Emergency Response and Job Markets in Southern Africa

1 APRIL 2022 – As the conflict in Ukraine continues, the shock waves are being felt all the way in Southern Africa which is still reeling from one of the worst cyclone seasons. From a shortage of relief supplies to hiked fuel costs, communities that were slowly recovering from the loss of their livelihoods and floods now face another challenge as their cost-of-living increases. This has impacted response efforts and raises the worry of how people will recover and resume normal living as things become more expensive. Hiked wheat and fuel costs are not only causing an increase in the cost of living but are also putting the jobs of hundreds at risk. In Zambia and Zimbabwe, where the economies were already fragile, fuel prices have increased by 13 per cent and 7 per cent respectively.

On 11 March, Cyclone Gombe, a Category 3 storm struck Nampula province in Mozambique. So far, 61 fatalities have been recorded with over 450,000 people displaced. As humanitarian efforts are ramping up, the challenge of available supplies is hitting hard.

“Commonly used relief supplies including tarps and tents are difficult to find,” says Christine Beasley, CARE Mozambique Country Director. “Many pre-positioned relief supplies from donors are being channeled to Ukraine and Poland to meet the massive needs of refugees, and available supplies are running low for emergencies elsewhere, including in Mozambique. For an emergency response to be credible, it has to happen fast. With the current shortages of pre-positioned supplies, our only option may be to order directly from factories in China and this will certainly not be fast enough to meet the immediate needs of people displaced by Cyclone Gombe. Mozambique has also seen a rise in fuel prices, the most recent by 12 per cent, that the Mozambican government has attributed to the conflict in Ukraine.” 

In Malawi, where 70 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, jobs are at risk because of the conflict. Amos Zaindi, CARE Malawi Country Director explains, “Just over 20 percent of the country's wheat dependency is on imports from Russia. Due to interruptions in the supply chain, this has led to a 40 per cent increase in the production cost of bread and wheat products. Dailies have reported there has been an increase of 50 per cent in cooking oil prices since the conflict started. These costs have been passed on to consumers. Those who work in the sectors that depend on these imports are wary of their jobs. These hikes and potential job losses are of particular concern to CARE as it risks more people sliding into poverty.” 

Displacement due to extreme weather events and a worsening fragile humanitarian situation needs attention and support to ensure at-risk communities are supported as they recover.  

“In a situation where vulnerabilities are already high due to the adverse impacts of climate change, having conflicts that impact the global food supply chains leaves those who are at risk are left worse off than they were,” says Chikondi Chabvata, CARE International Southern Africa Advocacy Advisor. “We have already seen an increase in the prices of fuel, wheat, cooking oil, and rice. In a region highly susceptible to the effects of climate change, conflicts such as the one in Ukraine take attention away from these climate-induced disasters. This means worse conditions, and no one gets to see it and appreciate the human suffering that conflicts create even outside the boundaries of war.”  

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About CARE Canada:

Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization working around the globe to save lives, defeat poverty, and achieve social justice. CARE puts women and girls at the centre of our work because we know we cannot overcome poverty until all people have equal rights and opportunities. CARE develops solutions alongside women and girls to lift themselves, their families, and communities out of poverty and out of crisis. CARE works in over 100 countries around the world.

To learn more about CARE Canada, visit www.care.ca.