Climatic shocks and recurrent natural hazards, on top of economic and political challenges, crop pests and diseases, and conflict, continue to affect millions of people in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region. Because of prolonged drought and failed harvests, extensive areas are facing severe food shortages. To tackle COVID-19, several governments have tightened border controls and imposed restrictions on the freedom of movement and other aspects.
What are the needs?
Extreme weather events are a regular occurrence in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region. They are becoming more frequent and severe as a result of climate change. The region is warming at about twice the global rate and has been buffeted by multiple and compounding shocks, such as 2 powerful cyclones in 2019, 2 cyclones in late 2020 – early 2021, the current drought, and erratic rains.
Persistent dry conditions, brought about by below-average rainfall in large parts of southeast Africa, have undermined food security and livelihoods for almost 16 million people. With the current drought having been preceded by floods, families struggle to find food, giving them little time to recover. The most impacted countries are Angola, Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Following extended periods of socio-economic hardship, the coronavirus pandemic has changed the face of hunger, increasing urban unemployment and greatly reducing vital remittances. Depressed commodity prices and earnings have tightened budgets, undermining the ability of governments to respond to the growing needs.
Mozambique’s northern province of Cabo Delgado was affected by a dramatic escalation of violence in 2020. Armed groups attacked villages and civilians, causing death and displacement and exacerbating the humanitarian situation. As of February 2021, it is estimated that some 670,000 people are internally displaced, with 1.3 million impacted by the violence.
How are we helping?
EU humanitarian funding in the Southern Africa and Indian Ocean region provides emergency relief response, food assistance, education in emergencies, and disaster preparedness. In 2020, the EU supported humanitarian actions in the region with €64.9 million in funding. Part of this money addressed the impact of food insecurity and COVID-19 impact in the region.
Through its humanitarian aid, the EU prioritises the swift provision of aid in the form of emergency cash transfers to vulnerable people affected by disasters. This saves people from having to sell their possessions when food runs out. In response to an ongoing current drought, the EU is helping address food and nutrition needs in the affected areas as well as helping small-scale farmers restore their means to earn a living.
With the security situation deteriorating in northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province, the EU is providing shelter, food and access to healthcare to displaced people with shelter, food and access to healthcare. EU humanitarian aid is also assisting other vulnerable people in need such as host communities and those left behind.
The EU has also allocated funding to support the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, in line with the respective countries’ national response plans. With this support, EU-funded partners in the region are including in their projects activities linked to coronavirus prevention and control, information dissemination campaigns, distribution of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), promotion of access to water and hygiene, and hygiene-awareness sessions for households.
Preparedness and prompt action can reduce the impact of natural hazards and help prevent loss of life, livelihoods and property. To this end, the EU supports actions that improve the capacity of communities and local and national disaster management authorities to prepare for and respond to disasters.
Several EU-funded projects use technology and innovative approaches, such as drones – used in the response to cyclone Idai in Mozambique and Malawi – to map high-risk areas, or mobile text messages to warn communities of impending dangers, and enabling communities to contact their disaster management authorities.
Increasing attention is given to disaster preparedness in schools through the promotion of safe learning facilities, training of teachers in early warning and teaching children how to stay safe. Having emergency stocks already present on the ground also facilitates and speeds up the response to rapid-onset natural hazards. The EU also supports actions to ensure education continuation in cases of humanitarian crises, for instance by ensuring safe learning spaces and providing adequate education programmes for children in areas affected by violence and displacement.