President Ian Khama this week advised and urged Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region to stand united against anticipated severe droughts.
Following consideration of a drought assessment tour exercise that was conducted from 1st to 26th of February and 4th -13th of May this year, Khama who is also the SADC Chairman, said the region has faced drought disasters of this magnitude in the past and it was only through joint cooperation that they overcame the situation.
“In response to the declaration, I hereby, on behalf of SADC Member States launch a Regional Appeal to mobilise US$2.4 billion for humanitarian and early recovery support to help the region respond to the crisis,” he stated.
He said the regional bloc has established a drought and El-Nino Logistics and Coordination Team at the SADC Secretariat with the mandate to effectively and efficiently coordinating immediate and medium term responses to the drought and El-Nino effects.
According to the exercise, the president said the region experienced devastating drought episode associated with the 2015/2016, El Nino event which is negatively impacting the livelihoods and quality of lives in Member States.
The region experienced a delayed onset of the 2015/2016 rainfall season, followed by erratic rains.
Through the exercise the President said crop production in the region was likely to depreciate as the region predicted poor rainfall performance and high temperatures.
SADC stated that the current drought has resulted in widespread crop production failures and loss of thousands of livestock.
Even the biggest grain producer, South Africa, has been affected by the droughts.
It is estimated that the maize harvest resulted in approximately 7.16 million metric tonnes, about 4.0 million tonnes less than average.
Several countries including Lesotho and Swaziland already recorded over 50% drop in their crop harvests.
Khama also said the 2016 regional food security and vulnerability assessments indicate that the number of food insecure people is about 40 million, which is about 14% of SADC’s total population.
The already serious problem of acute and chronic malnutrition in the region, Khama said, is expected to worsen, increasing risks of mortality of young children and the elderly.
“Steep food price hikes are already being experienced due to poor grain production and the depreciation of regional currencies against the US dollar,” he said