Panafrican News Agency

Southern Africa suffers widespread food, nutrition insecurity – SADC report

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) - Ten Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) suffer widespread food and nutrition insecurity, according to a report released on Thursday by the sub-regional body.

It said that data submitted by these countries indicated an estimated 47.6 million people  are food insecure, which is a 5.5% increase from last year and 34.3% above the 5-year average.

According to the Synthesis Report on he State of Food and Nutrition Security in the SADC region, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) recorded a 25% year-on-year increase in the number of people in IPC Phase 3 and above, from 21.8 million to 27.3 million people.

“This rise is partly attributable to additional communities being assessed. The situation in Madagascar has worsened significantly: the number of people food insecure increased by 136% from last year, with 1.31 million people facing IPC Phase 3 and above.

“Rural food insecurity will peak between November 2021 and March 2022, by which time many smallholder farming families would have depleted their own food stocks ahead of the next harvest in April 2022,” the report said..

Child malnutrition is of great concern in SADC countries. Almost 19 million children are stunted in the region - one in every three. Every Member State has a prevalence of stunting that is classified as high or very high by the World Health Organization (WHO)..

Food and nutrition insecure communities require urgent assistance in the form of food and/or cash-based transfers. Social protection programmes and shock-responsive social safety nets must be scaled up, incorporating gender perspectives.

Favourable rainfall led to improved cereal and livestock production over most of the region, with South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe recording maize surpluses. However, the above-average rainfall season was coupled with a destructive cyclone season, with five weather systems making landfall. These storms affected over 500,000 people and damaged over 219,000 hectares of farmland.

Some Member States also experienced localised prolonged dry spells, including Angola, DRC, Namibia, Madagascar, and Mozambique. Acute malnutrition has worsened markedly in these areas.

Average to above-average cereal production in many Member States is expected to keep staple food prices below 2020 levels. However, even with sufficient production, lower or lost incomes due to COVID-19 have led to a reduction in household purchasing power. The lockdown has caused a catastrophic 7% contraction in regional gross domestic product.

Diets continue to worsen as diverse varieties of food become unavailable, inaccessible, and unaffordable to the most vulnerable households, contributing to malnutrition. The pandemic is reversing the progress made in poverty reduction in the region over the past two decades.

Even before COVID-19 reduced incomes and disrupted supply chains, hunger had been increasing across Southern Africa. Contributing factors include pervasive poverty, climate change, conflict, gender disparities, diseases, pests, and natural disasters.

For many parts of the region, four of the past six rainfall seasons have been poor (this year being one of the exceptions). Civil unrest has recently erupted in eSwatini, and a volcano displaced communities in southern DRC. African Migratory Locust (AML) outbreaks continue, with sightings reported in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

By 1 July 2021, Southern Africa had recorded about 2.5 million COVID-19 cases and 72,000 deaths, although the true death toll is likely far higher. The epidemiological situation remains unpredictable as new variants emerge, most recently the Delta variant, which has caused a surging "third wave".

Saving lives remains the priority, which will require access to affordable vaccines, targeted containment efforts, and added spending to strengthen local health systems; coupled with comprehensive responses to food and nutrition insecurity.

-0- PANA AR 12Aug2021