Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection

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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 is prone to recurrent natural disasters such as cyclones, floods and droughts. This southernmost region of the African continent comprises of Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Islands of Comoros, Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius.

Farming is the main livelihood for a large number of people, who thus heavily rely on rainfall. Poor seasons often cause acute food insecurity and contribute to chronic malnutrition, especially among children. Some of the frequently affected areas include southern Malawi, southern Madagascar, southern and central Mozambique, southern districts of Zimbabwe and most of Lesotho.

Since last year, the food security situation has significantly deteriorated as a direct consequence of El Niño and the prolonged drought situation it has caused. The current rainfall season has been the driest in the last 35 years across several parts of the Southern Africa region. Of particular concern are Mozambique, Madagascar and Angola.

Cyclones and the associated flooding seasonally contaminate water sources and stagnant water, which increases the risks of disease outbreaks, such as cholera or malaria.

Across the region, food insecurity is exacerbated by political instability, socio-economic challenges, world's highest HIV/AIDS prevalence and widespread poverty that result in high vulnerability of the population to natural hazards and economic pressures. 

What are we doing?

The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), together with its partners, regularly monitors the humanitarian situation in the region and responds to the immediate needs in sectors of water and sanitation, shelter, food, relief items, primary health, protection and livelihoods recovery following  disasters, such as, floods, cyclones, droughts, and disease outbreaks.

Additionally, since 2008, the Commission has supported disaster risk reduction initiatives and resilience building of communities and local institutions. This includes better preparing communities and institutions in hazard-prone areas; improving 'early warning systems' and local response capacities; and developing adequate systems to mitigate the impact of disasters.

Rural populations in the region continue to face critical food shortages due to poor rainfall, pest attacks, and declining soil fertility. Through disaster preparedness programmes, ECHO supports the introduction of appropriate agriculture techniques, improved seeds and new varieties of crops with the aim of boosting food and nutrition security in the most food insecure parts of the region.

Since 2012, the Commission has supported the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region with nearly €110 million in relief assistance and disaster preparedness, contributing to building the resilience of the most vulnerable. €52 million has been allocated in 2015-2016 for responding to El Niño-induced food insecurity.

Last updated 25/04/2016