Lessons of the southern Africa drought crisis

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April 10, 2017
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April 10, 2017

Lessons of the southern Africa drought crisis

Severe drought and crop loss have taken their toll on southern Africa. In the worst-affected countries, millions of people still face hunger. While not yet over, however, the crisis is abating. Assessments in April will give a more accurate picture but, with above-average rainfall, it’s likely the May harvest will be better than in recent years.

An intensifying El Nino during 2015 caused particular concern for a region with only one annual harvest and food production largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture.

As drought tightened its grip in late 2015, WFP began urging leading donors and international financial institutions to help scale up assistance to millions of vulnerable people, building on existing government social safety nets.

There are lessons to be learned about collective preparedness, early action, strategic partnerships and regional cooperation. But the most important one is about supporting governments in strengthening shock-responsive social nets for vulnerable populations. These involve linking social welfare support to mother-and-child nutrition programmes, setting up weather-indexed insurance schemes to protect smallholder farmers or helping communities provide water for their cattle so they don’t have to sell off vital assets in times of drought.

Making such systemic changes is a challenge not just for one organisation, or even just for the United Nations and the humanitarian community. Building resilience is everyone’s business: civil society, governments, donors and financial institutions.

 

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