European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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Southern Africa and Indian Ocean

Within the Cash for Assets project, in the Taung village, people built stone structures to protect fields against erosion from heavy rains. © European Union/ECHO/Anna Chudolinska

What are the needs?

The Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region covers a vast area encompassing 15 countries. The region is prone to recurrent natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and droughts. The 2015-16 rainfall season was the driest in 35 years across large swathes of the region. Two consecutive below-average rainy seasons have had a negative impact on crop and livestock production, cereal prices, water availability and livelihoods.

At the beginning of 2016, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland declared a state of emergency appealing for international support. The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) also declared a regional drought disaster, estimating that more than 28 million people were food insecure.

The effects of the drought continue to be felt in 2017 as people await the harvest period in March-April. More than 13 million people are in need of food assistance in the seven most affected countries (Angola, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe). Wet and stormy weather linked to La Niña has moreover damaged crops, homes and infrastructure such as roads, bridges, school and clinics.

With more than 75% of the population living in rural areas and their survival intrinsically tied to rain-fed agriculture, the loss of crops represents a continuous threat to people’s income and health. 

Natural disasters are becoming more unpredictable and are also increasing in frequency, intensity and magnitude as a result of climate change. Although some parts of the region have registered improved cereal production, rural populations continue to experience food shortages due to their reliance on rain-fed agriculture, declining soil fertility and land degradation.

What are we doing?

Since 2012, the European Commission has supported the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region with nearly €110 million in relief assistance and disaster preparedness, contributing to building resilience among vulnerable communities. In this period, Zimbabwe received over €15 million and about €18 million was allocated to Malawi, Mozambique and Madagascar, including in emergency and recovery aid following the 2014-2015 floods.

In 2016 and 2017, the EU helped to address the suffering and food shortages caused by prolonged drought after two consecutive failed rainy seasons. A total of €61 million was released to deal with the El Niño crisis, but also to support resilience efforts aimed at making communities better equipped to deal with drought and other natural disasters in future. 

Due to the frequency and extent of damage caused by disasters, the Commission has been supporting Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) activities since 2008, in order to improve response capacities of communities and institutions. In 2016 and 2017 the Commission supported Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique with €10 million. When floods and cyclones wreaked havoc in the region in early 2017, several partners activated the crisis modifier of their ongoing projects with the Commission. This is a mechanism which allows partners to organise an emergency response in the immediate aftermath of a rapid onset-disaster.

The European Commission’s humanitarian aid department (ECHO) is working closely with its development colleagues in the EU Delegations to support resilience efforts and help communities prepare better for future calamities.

Last updated 11/04/2017