File picture: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters
File picture: Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

Red Cross calls for immediate action to aid millions facing hunger in southern Africa

By ANA Reporter Time of article published Dec 12, 2019

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Johannesburg - Hunger is threatening the lives of 11 million people in southern Africa due to deepening drought, with Red Cross teams across Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia scaling up their response to emergency and crisis levels of food insecurity, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said on Thursday.

Zambia and Zimbabwe have seen the most significant increase in food insecurity from last year, with 2.3 million and 3.6 million people respectively suffering from acute shortages, the IFRC said.

It called for 7.7 million Swiss francs to mitigate the crisis, saying the overall objective of the multi-country emergency appeal was to provide immediate food assistance and livelihood recovery support to the most affected households in targeted communities for 14 months.

"This year’s drought is unprecedented, causing food shortages on a scale we have never seen here before,” said Dr Michael Charles, head of the IFRC’s southern Africa cluster.

“We are seeing people going two to three days without food, entire herds of livestock wiped out by drought and small-scale farmers with no means to earn money to tide them over a lean season.”

The IFRC noted that Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia had declared drought emergencies while in eSwatini, 24 per cent of the rural population was suffering from food shortages.

The situation was set to worsen due to late or no rain in the region and crop production was down by 30 percent for the 2019/2020 harvest, the humanitarian aid organisation added.

In October, the IFRC launched an emergency appeal in Zambia to bring relief to those most affected by the persistent drought and on Thursday it said it was now widening its appeal for emergency funding to cover a further four countries affected by unprecedented levels of drought and hunger.

The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement already has ongoing operations on food insecurity in eSwatini, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe reaching 207,055 people or 41,411 households).

The IFRC said the latest appeal would broaden its reach to eight southern African countries, targeting individuals not reached by other interventions in the region.

“There is a major gap in investment in resilience and community-level capacities in countries hardest hit, including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini,” said Charles.

"As a humanitarian collective, we must take immediate action to respond to millions who face imminent starvation. Even more importantly, it is our responsibility to strengthen communities’ resilience and ability to adapt to the current challenges. Otherwise, we will never end hunger in the region.”

African News Agency (ANA)

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