WFP races to cushion people from looming drought in Southern Africa in largest cash payout to date
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has released a record-breaking US$ 12.8 million as part of efforts to combat the impending drought impact caused by El Niño in four southern African countries. The funds - the largest such pay-out to date - will be used to implement a range of anticipatory actions aimed at safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of over half a million people.
The activation, co-funded by Germany, the European Union, and Norway, will enable the dissemination of early warning text messages, the distribution of drought-tolerant seeds and anticipatory cash, and the provision of safe water for communities and livestock. Over 550,000 individuals will benefit in Lesotho, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe.
“We cannot afford to not act when we already know that early action saves lives and livelihoods,” says Menghestab Haile, WFP’s Regional Director for southern Africa. “The cost of inaction is severe – both in terms of hardship faced by people living on the edge, but also in in terms of the higher costs humanitarian actors and governments must pay if they respond after the event."
Anticipatory Action (AA) aims to prevent and mitigate the effects of extreme weather on the food security and nutrition, lives and livelihoods of highly vulnerable people. The anticipatory actions are expected to protect people’s purchasing power from reduced crop yields and livestock and decrease the likelihood of water shortages.
The El Niño is anticipated to strike at a time when the region is already facing considerable stress, with approximately 47.4 million people facing severe food insecurity in parts of southern and central Africa. This phenomenon is expected to break regional temperature and rainfall deficit records, reaching its peak between November 2023 and January 2024. Coinciding with the lean season and extending until February of the following year, it is expected to reduce rainfall across most of the region, particularly during the crucial December-January planting period, thereby affecting the harvest in April 2024.
“We are very concerned. The areas most vulnerable to the impact of El Niño are those that recorded below average rains in the last farming season. Another poor season will significantly worsen food availability,” adds Haile.
The latest activation is the result of years of work with governments and humanitarian partners to promote proactive approaches to climate risk management in southern Africa. The approach has proven successful in the past with similar activations in Madagascar and Zimbabwe, helping protect people from sliding further into food insecurity.
Despite being one of the regions contributing the least to global carbon emissions, southern Africa is currently facing increasing problems due to climate change, with prolonged episodes of drought being a major cause of food insecurity in the region.
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