From ANN, April 5, 2016: The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, is responding to a serious drought affecting countries across southern Africa, where El Niño conditions have caused the lowest ever recorded rainfall between October and December 2015. Countries in the Horn of Africa region are also affected.
It is estimated that 40 million rural people and 9 million poor urban people who live in drought-affected areas could be exposed, and an estimated 14 million people in the region are already food insecure.
The southern part of Madagascar has been affected heavily by the El Niño-driven drought. Inconsistent rains have left farmers with poor crops since 2012, and the drought has already caused many districts to lose their regular crop of maize. The upcoming harvests of sweet potato in May and cassava in June will likely yield very poor results as well.
ADRA Madagascar coordinated with United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to reallocate more than 350 MT (386 US tons) to distribute emergency food supplies to 13 communes across the affected southern part of the country. This includes enough nutritious corn soy blend (CSB), rice, and oil for one month, and it was distributed to about 52,000 people who were identified as most vulnerable.
Malawi is experiencing its first maize deficit in a decade, and, as of December 2015, the price of maize stands at 73 percent higher than average. The southern part of the country is the worst hit by a prolonged dry spell which has affected maize, in some cases at its tussling stage. Current estimates say that a total of 2.8 million people are affected.
With assistance from the World Food Program (WFP), ADRA Malawi is assisting 21,932 households in Phalombe and 8,948 households in Mulanje. Both Phalombe and Mulanje are in the southern region of the country. In addition, they are also assisting 1,000 households in Phalombe under the WFP’s Food for Asset program through August 2016. Under the program, each household is getting a food basket of 50 kg (110 lb) maize, 10 kg (22 lb) pulses, 6 kg (13 lb) CSB and 2 Litre (34 oz) cooking oil.
As of mid-January, the National Disaster Management Council of Ministers in Zambia agreed there is a potential crisis triggered by El Niño and anticipates approximately 1.6 million people may be in need of food assistance. Mambwe in the east has not been spared, and 5,400 farmers still need support as their crop production has been affected with drought in wider areas, but also flash floods in some areas.
With support from the Zambian government through the National Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit, ADRA Zambia has distributed 234 metric tons (258 US tons) of relief maize to 4,680 households through February 2016. ADRA is continuing needs assessments to ascertain the extent of vulnerability and requirements in Mambwe.
ADRA Zimbabwe has carried out an initial distribution of emergency food, with a focus on the Doma people who traditionally do not farm and store food as they are nomadic. In partnership with its network partners and local churches, ADRA responded to the plight in Mbire district with food ration packs containing 50 kg (110 lb) of maize meal, 3,750 ml (127 oz) cooking oil, 10 kg (22 lb) dried sugar beans and 1 kg (2.2 lb) iodized salt to 140 affected households in the area.
The country office is also implementing a food assistance project in Zvishavane district of the Midlands Province in coordination with WFP, reaching out to more than 32,000 beneficiaries. Next steps include possible coordination with other faith-based organizations for a wider response.
The Government of Lesotho has declared the drought situation a national disaster. According to assessment results, 650,000 in the small country are in need of immediate food assistance. Access to water is another major problem as water points have dried up and collection time has increased to 2-3 hours. Health facilities are going without water and patients are even asked to bring water. In addition, children are reported to be sent home early due to inadequate sanitation standards from lack of available water.
The impact of El Niño is going to affect the country until at least the 2016/17 season harvests, as well as recovery beyond 2017. Vulnerable groups, including people living with HIV and AIDS, and districts with current high stunting rates are hard hit. The current number of affected people is escalating due to other factors such as increasing food prices, loss of income from agricultural activities and loss of productive assets.
ADRA Lesotho recently activated their National Emergency Management Plan to reach households in Berea District. The project targeted households affected by strong winds that destroyed their properties.
The Swaziland government has declared a national disaster and national emergency due to the two-year drought conditions in the country. The government is making plans to address the growing needs over the next critical months, as well as addressing the situation for the next five years.
ADRA Swaziland is in discussions with the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) to distribute government purchased food to approximately 18,000 beneficiaries in 3 constituencies in the Lubombo and Shiselweni regions.
The food security and malnutrition situation in Somalia is alarming and requires urgent attention. It is estimated that around 3.7 million people in the country will not have enough food by mid-2016.
ADRA Somalia has implemented its initial response, providing emergency water trucking in the Puntland State through May. They are also coordinating with the worldwide ADRA network to roll out its next phase of action plans for the upcoming critical months of drought conditions.
ADRA Canada has also funded an intervention for a water assistance project for ADRA-supported schools in the province of Sool. Dropout rates rise in emergency situations, so providing schools with adequate water helps children remain on the their educational path.
Assessments in Ethiopia have outlined increasing water shortages in hot spots, with severity varying by location. Drinking water availability is becoming a critical issue for farming communities.
ADRA Ethiopia has secured funding to begin a water, sanitation, and hygiene response in the Kelafo region. They are also working with the rest of the ADRA network on a wider response within the country.
Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the denomination’s world headquarters in Washington, DC. Featured image: Food distribution in Zimbabwe. Photo credit: ANN/ADRA Zimbabwe.