Gaborone – Most countries in the Southern Africa region are currently suffering from widespread food shortages owing to poor production in the last farming season, the latest report on the region’s nutrition and food security has shown.
According to the region’s analysis report food production in Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia was drastically affected by the outbreak of African migratory locust in those countries last year.
This year, in the ten SADC Member States that submitted data, an estimated 47.6 million people are food insecure, which is a 5.5% increase from last year and 34.3% above the 5-year average.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) recorded a 25% year-on-year increase in the number of people in IPC Phase 3 and above, from 21.8 million to 27.3 million people. This rise is partly attributable to additional communities being assessed.
SADC also said the situation in Madagascar has worsened significantly. “The number of people food insecure increased by 136% from last year, with 1.31 million people facing IPC Phase 3 and above,” ADC said.
The regional bloc also said rural food insecurity will peak between November 2021 and March 2022, by which time many smallholder farming families would have depleted their own food stocks ahead of the next harvest in April 2022.
“Child malnutrition is of great concern. Almost 19 million children are stunted in the region – one in every three. Every Member State has a prevalence of stunting that is classifies as high or very high by WHO,” SADC said.
The regional bloc reiterated that food and nutrition insecure communities require urgent assistance in the form of food and/or cash-based transfers.
They also called for Social protection programmes and shock-responsive social safety nets that must be scaled up, incorporating gender perspectives.
“Favourable rainfall led to improved cereal and livestock production over most of the region, with South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe recording maize surpluses. However, the above-average rainfall season was coupled with a destructive cyclone season, with five weather systems making landfall. These storms affected over 500,000 people and damaged over 219,000 hectares of farmland, “SADC said.
SADC said an average to above-average cereal production in many Member States is expected to keep staple food prices below 2020 levels.
However, even with sufficient production, lower or lost incomes due to COVID-19 have led to a reduction in household purchasing power.
“The lockdown has caused a catastrophic 7% contraction in regional gross domestic product. Diets continue to worsen as diverse varieties of food become unavailable, inaccessible, and unaffordable to the most vulnerable households, contributing to malnutrition. The pandemic is reversing the progress made in poverty reduction in the region over the past two decades.
“Yet even before COVID-19 reduced incomes and disrupted supply chains, hunger had been increasing across Southern Africa. Contributing factors include pervasive poverty, climate change, conflict, gender disparities, diseases, pests, and natural disasters,” the regional bloc said.
According to SADC many parts of the region, have seen four of the past six rainfall seasons being poor (this year being one of the exceptions). The region suffered major production loses owing to the covid 19 pandemic. “By 1 July 2021, Southern Africa had recorded about 2.5 million COVID-19 cases and 72,000 deaths, although the true death toll is likely far higher. The epidemiological situation remains unpredictable as new variants emerge, most recently the Delta variant, which has caused a surging “third wave”.
“Saving lives remain the priority, which will require access to affordable vaccines, targeted containment efforts, and added spending to strengthen local health systems; coupled with comprehensive responses to food and nutrition insecurity,” the regional bloc said.