In the Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean region, the past two years have been marked by widespread food shortages following the worst drought in 35 years. As a consequence, almost 14 million people across the region were in need of emergency food assistance in 2017. In the same year, six out of 15 countries in the region experienced extreme weather, ranging from drought to excessive rainfall, flooding and cyclones.
The Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region is prone to recurrent natural disasters such as cyclones, floods, and droughts. Climate change has made these disasters less predictable, increasing their frequency, intensity and magnitude. The last two failed rainy seasons reduced crop and livestock production, and led to water shortages and high food prices.
Improved weather conditions in 2017 have increased food production and availability, in addition to a positive weather forecast for the coming months. However, due to the severe drought, a considerable number of families were unable to harvest enough food to meet their daily nutritional needs. They will experience food shortages during the lean season from December 2017 to April 2018.
In Madagascar, an estimated one million people are likely to be in need of emergency food assistance. Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are also expected to have a substantial number of people at crisis levels of food insecurity. Chronic malnutrition is widespread with severe acute malnutrition being a major concern in southern Madagascar.
Since August 2017, Madagascar has experienced a plague outbreak totalling 100 deaths out of 1554 reported cases.
Since 2012, the European Commission has supported the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region with close to €125 million in humanitarian aid, relief assistance, and disaster preparedness funding. EU assistance has contributed to building resilience among vulnerable communities and improving their capacity to deal with recurring drought and other natural disasters.
The European Commission monitors the humanitarian situation in the region and responds to urgent needs by supporting a variety of UN agencies, the Red Cross movement and non-governmental organisations. Most Commission funding goes towards humanitarian food assistance in the form of cash-based interventions, nutrition and health care, disaster preparedness, water and sanitation, and shelter.
More than 13 million people have been assisted since 2016, when Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland declared a state of emergency and appealed for international support to help drought-affected populations. The drought triggered a large-scale humanitarian response in the region until mid-2017 and its effects continue to be felt. In 2016-2017, the Commission provided partners in Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique with over €80.3 million for the delivery of food assistance and emergency aid.
The Commission has supported disaster risk reduction (DRR) activities in the region since 2008 aimed at improving the response capacities of communities and institutions. In 2017, €5 million were specifically allocated for disaster risk reduction, with a focus on emergency preparedness in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar. Awareness has been raised among school children and families, improving their readiness for disasters. Farmers have been trained on best agricultural practices such as time-saving irrigation methods, the storage of food reserves, and the running of small businesses to reduce their dependence on aid. Innovative technology has been introduced through drone-mapping of disaster-prone areas. The EU also funded other small scale projects to support refugees in Malawi (€300 000), and fight the plague epidemic in Madagascar (€300 000).