Southern Africa’s unprecedented El Niño-related drought and weather-related stress has triggered a second shock-year of hunger and hardship for poor and vulnerable people with serious consequences that will persist until at least until the next harvest in 2017. Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have all declared states of emergency due to El Niño-induced drought, as have seven of South Africa’s nine provinces. Mozambique declared a Red Alert, the highest level of national emergency preparedness, in the central and southern provinces.
The exceptional lack of precipitation, compounded by the impact of poor rainfall in previous years, has resulted in significant rain-fed yield losses, below-average irrigated crops, poor pasture conditions and high cattle mortalities.
In addition, there is a 70 percent likelihood that La Niña, generally associated with above average rainfall in many areas of Southern Africa, will occur by December 2016 particularly in the southern half of the region. While helping to reduce water deficits that have accumulated over the last two seasons, La Niña could also result in flooding in some flood-prone parts of the region, necessitating the incorporation of flood scenarios into contingency plans.
Given the scale of the El Niño response and La Niña potential, preparedness and response mechanisms are being scaled up at the regional level as well as in different countries supported by various partners and key stakeholders. On 15 March 2016, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers approved the declaration of a regional drought emergency and approved the creation of a regional Logistics Coordination Centre to coordinate the immediate response.
On 26 May 2016, SADC announced the establishment of the SADC El Niño Response Team (including the logistics cell). UN partners supporting the cell include FAO, OCHA, UNICEF and WHO, and WFP will provide support in food and nutrition security analysis and logistics coordination and information management.
WFP launched a two-month regional Immediate Response-PREP 200979 (May 2016 – July 2016) in order to provide timely technical support to the SADC Response Team. This Special Operation 200993 will succeed the IRPREP and cover additional requirements, including support to member states to enhance assessments and real-time monitoring as well as surge capacity in emergency preparedness and response at the regional bureau level. This Special Operation has a duration of ten months (mid-June 2016 – mid-April 2017).