11 million people’s lives in Southern Africa are being threatened by hunger due to deepening drought in the region. Red Cross teams across Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia are scaling up their response to emergency and crisis levels of food insecurity.

“This year’s drought is unprecedented, causing food shortages on a scale we have never seen before,” said Dr Michael Charles, Head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Southern Africa cluster.

The countries with the most significant increase in food insecurity from last year are Zambia and Zimbabwe. 2.3 million and 3.6 million people respectively are suffering from acute food shortages.

Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia have this year declared drought emergencies. In Eswatini, 24% of its rural population is suffering from food shortages. The situation is set to worsen due to late or no rain in the region and crop production is down by 30% for the 2019/2020 harvest.

In October, the IFRC launched an Emergency Appeal in Zambia. This was to bring relief to those most affected by the persistent drought. It is now widening its appeal for emergency funding to cover a further four countries affected by unprecedented levels of drought and hunger.

The Red Cross Red Crescent Movement already has ongoing operations on food insecurity in Eswatini, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe reaching 207,055 people (41,411 households). This newest appeal will broaden its reach to eight southern African countries and will target individuals not reached by other interventions in the region.

“There is a major gap in investment in resilience and community-level capacities in countries hardest hit, including Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Eswatini,” Dr Charles said. “As a humanitarian collective, we must take immediate action to respond to millions who face imminent starvation. Even more importantly, it is our responsibility to strengthen communities’ resilience and ability to adapt to the current challenges. Otherwise, we will never end hunger in the region.”

The IFRC is calling for 7.7 million Swiss francs to mitigate the food crisis in the region. The overall objective of the multi-country Emergency Appeal is to provide immediate food assistance and livelihood recovery support to the most affected households in the targeted communities for a period of 14 months.

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