August 2, 2016
With 6.5 million people in need of humanitarian aid, this year’s El Niño–induced drought constitutes the largest humanitarian emergency that Malawi has ever confronted. It also brings the second consecutive harvest failure to this small, landlocked country, which has yet to recover from last year’s severe flooding. Inadequate governance has amplified the negative impacts of both, compounding natural disasters with political and economic malfeasance.
As a result of the worst drought in 35 years, southern Africa is grappling with a cereals deficit of between 6 and 10 million metric tons, and over 40 million people, 23 percent of the region’s rural population, face severe food insecurity. In past droughts, South Africa’s robust grain surpluses have insulated its neighbors from stark shortages, but this year it, too, faces a substantial deficit. Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe have declared states of emergency, while Mozambique has announced a similar “code red” classification. Eight of South Africa’s nine provinces have been declared drought disasters. While the peak of the crisis is expected to hit between October and March, 23 million people are in urgent need of food aid right now.
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