More than eight million people in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region are experiencing food shortages. Many are still struggling to recover from the 2016 El Niño-related drought, yet another El Niño is probable and is likely to affect crops, jobs, and food prices. The EU focuses its efforts on better preparing vulnerable communities to deal with natural disasters, to save lives when they hit, but also to help them recover more easily.
Inhabitants of the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region regularly face extreme weather such as cyclones, floods, and droughts, the frequency and effects of which are exacerbated by climate change. Countries in the region have oscillated between very dry and very wet weather, with impact on crop production and livestock. Furthermore, infectious disease outbreaks often follow extreme weather events. It is usually the poorest and most vulnerable population groups that are most affected by disasters.
Other drivers of food insecurity include poor agriculture techniques, depleted soil fertility, crop pests, land access issues, lack of access to food, volatile food prices, but also governance, social and economic factors such as poverty, HIV/AIDS and demographic pressure. While cereal crop conditions have been favourable in most parts of the region, several areas have been affected by dry spells that reduced yields.
The number of food insecure people remains high at over 8.4 million, including 2.4 million in Malawi, 1.2 million in Madagascar, 0.8 million in Mozambique and 3.9 million in Zimbabwe. Madagascar in particular is expected to require external food assistance until March 2019.
Since 2016, the European Union has supported the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region with close to €81 million in humanitarian aid, relief, and disaster preparedness funding. EU assistance has contributed to building resilience among vulnerable communities and strengthened the capacity of disaster management authorities, improving their capacity to deal with recurrent natural disasters.
The EU monitors the humanitarian situation in the region and responds to urgent needs. It supports a variety of UN agencies, the Red Cross movement and non-governmental organisations. Currently, the EU supports disaster preparedness activities which aim to improve preparedness and response capacities of local civil protection actors and communities at risk of disasters such as flooding, cyclones, and droughts.
Populations and institutions are informed, educated and, equipped to plan and prepare for disasters. Some of the EU-funded projects use technology and innovative approaches – for example, the use of drones and bulk mobile text messaging - to help communities respond quickly to disasters and avoid loss of life and property. Preparedness can greatly reduce the impact of natural disasters.
The drought induced by El Nino in 2016 triggered a large-scale humanitarian response in the region until mid-2017. Its effects continue to be felt with poor families struggling to recover from the losses they sustained. More than 13 million people have been assisted by EU humanitarian aid. In 2017, the EU allocated €9 million for food assistance and nutrition and €5 million for disaster preparedness in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar. During the year, an extra €1 million was provided for the cyclone Enawao response in Madagascar.
In 2018, the EU allocated €11.5 million to support disaster preparedness in Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, as well as for support at regional level.
Increasing attention is given to disaster preparedness in schools where awareness has been raised among school children and families, improving their readiness for disasters.