As drought continues throughout southern Africa, the latest FEWS.net alert estimates that 2.5 million people are currently in Crisis food insecurity levels and in need of urgent humanitarian aid across Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Lesotho. The organization is also anticipating that the region’s food-insecure population in 2016-2017 will be at least two times higher than current levels.
Below average rainfall and above average temperatures have combined in recent months to limit crop development and water availability. Forecasts suggest that precipitation will remain below average, causing this growing season to be the driest on record. In South Africa’s maize surplus-producing regions, the start of the seasonal rains was delayed by more than 50 days past normal; parts of southern Mozambique and northern Namibia saw rains delayed by up to 40 days, while central and southern Malawi experience 10-30 day delays. Satellite images have suggested that vegetation conditions across much of the region are at their lowest levels in 15 years.
The situation has led governments in South Africa and Lesotho to declare drought emergencies, and authorities in Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa, and Namibia are advising people to limit their water usage.
With El Niño expected to last another 4-6 months and rainfall expected to remain below average throughout the region, FEWS.net anticipates crop yields to be reduced in both chronically food-deficit areas and in surplus-producing regions. This could result in a worsening of already significant food insecurity throughout the region; food supplies are already limited and staple food prices already higher than average due to poor 2015 harvests. Even if the area receives increased food imports, reduced 2016 production will likely still result in even higher grain prices.
The report predicts that food insecurity will reach its peak between December 2016 and March 2017, with the food insecure population in southern Africa potentially reaching its highest level since 2002-2003.
By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI