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Southern Africa faces unprecedented hunger crisis amid extreme weather

Southern Africa faces unprecedented hunger crisis amid extreme weather
5 Apr 2024 01:13


Over 24 million people in southern Africa are currently facing the grim realities of hunger, malnutrition, and water scarcity, fuelled by a series of extreme weather events, Oxfam said on Thursday. 

The region, already grappling with the challenges of flooding and persistent droughts, finds itself at the epicentre of a humanitarian crisis that shows no signs of abating.

Malawi, with over half of its 19 million population in distress, along with six million Zambians, three million Zimbabweans, and an additional three million Mozambicans, are suffering from acute hunger, Oxfam said.

The situation is further exacerbated in Mozambique's capital, Maputo, where recent floods, following closely on the heels of Tropical Storm Filipo, have devastated more than 50,000 lives.

Since the onset of 2024, the region has been battered by climate shocks that have claimed over 130 lives, decimated more than 2 million hectares of vital crops, and laid waste to over 7,000 homes and key infrastructure, including roads, health centres, and educational institutions, the organisation added.

The consequent hunger crisis is compelling affected communities in these four countries to adopt desperate measures for survival, ranging from meal skipping to the selling of essential assets.

The drought conditions, attributed to the El Niño phenomenon, have ravaged croplands in Zambia, Malawi, and Central Mozambique, putting further strain on already vulnerable communities. In response, the governments of Malawi and Zambia have declared States of Disaster and Emergency, marking Malawi's fourth such declaration since 2020 due to extreme weather impacts.

Despite their minimal contribution to global carbon emissions, countries in southern Africa are disproportionately affected by climate change. Mozambique, for instance, has faced the brunt of cyclones and tropical storms twenty times since 2018, despite accounting for only 0.2% of global emissions, Oxfam revealed.

The cycle of recurrent weather anomalies has rendered the most vulnerable populations helpless, with governments struggling to muster the necessary resources for relief and reconstruction. The aftermath of Cyclone Freddy alone is estimated to have inflicted damages worth $1.5 billion in Mozambique and $500 million in Malawi, according to Oxfam.

With the region in crisis and facing multiple simultaneous emergencies, the call for immediate donor support has never been more urgent. 

A recent United Nations report underscored the severity of the situation, noting the record low rainfall received by countries including Angola, Botswana, DRC, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, marking the driest late January/February period in over 40 years.

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