Humanitarian agencies in southern Africa have called on donors to release urgently needed funds to save the lives and sustain the livelihoods of millions of people affected by a severe El Nino-induced drought in the region.
The agencies, as part of the Regional Inter-Agency Standing Committee (Riasco), last week launched an Action Plan requesting $1.2 billion (R16.7 billion) to provide critical aid to 12.3 million people in the seven most affected countries between now and April 2017.
About a quarter of the required funds have been received or pledged. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) declared a regional drought emergency on July 26, signalling the dire situation in the region, and launched a $2.4 billion appeal to the international community.
The Riasco Action Plan seeks also to support the recently launched SADC appeal. The drought has contributed to a 9.3 million-ton regional shortfall in cereal production and hundreds of thousands of livestock deaths. An estimated 579 000 children will need treatment for severe acute malnutrition this year.
“Droughts, like the one caused this year by El Nino, are becoming more frequent and severe, and the trend can be expected to continue if necessary action isn’t taken swiftly,” said Timo Pakkala, El Nino coordinator for the Southern Africa Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
“The time to act is now. The international community should support the Riasco action plan and allocate more resources, not only to save lives, but to prevent crises of this scale happening again.”
At least 70% of southern Africans rely on agriculture.