SADC to launch humanitarian appeal in response to El Niño-induced drought

SANF 24 no 8 – by Fauny Mawere and Neto Nengomasha

Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community will meet on 20 May to discuss the humanitarian situation in the region caused by the current El Niño-induced drought.

In southern Africa, El Niño weather patterns are associated with low rainfall and drought.

The current drought has affected crops and livestock leading to the disruption of lives and livelihoods for an estimated 58 million people in southern Africa.

According to a statement by the Secretariat of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the “Summit will discuss measures to mitigate the impact of El Niño induced drought and address the food and nutrition security situation in the region.”

The Summit will be preceded by a SADC Council of Ministers meeting on 19 May.

During the Extra Ordinary Summit of leaders of the 16 member states, which will be held virtually, the SADC chairperson, President João Lourenço of Angola will launch the SADC Humanitarian Appeal.

The SADC Secretariat said the appeal “highlights the population affected, their prioritised needs and a call for immediate support from regional and international partners to address the needs of the affected population.”

From January 2024, large parts of southern Africa experienced significantly below average rainfall, with Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique Zambia and Zimbabwe receiving less than 20 percent of expected rainfall, affecting rainfed agriculture production.

At least three of the countries – Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe – have declared the drought situation, a state of disaster.

Announcing the declaration in February this year, President Hakainde Hichilema of Zambia said severe drought had affected nearly 10 million people in 84 of the country’s 116 districts.

A month later, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi appealed for humanitarian assistance amounting to US$200 million for people in 23 of the country’s 28 districts that are affected by drought.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe said in April that nearly three million people in the country were estimated to be food insecure due to the drought, and he appealed for US$2 billion to fund a multi-pronged strategy to address the situation.

In addition to the impact on agriculture, the intense drought has a negative impact on hydropower generation in the region resulting in reduced capacity, affecting production across all economic sectors.

Assessments conducted by the Zambezi River Authority (ZRA) in April this year showed the possibility of 2024 recording the lowest lake inflow ever for Lake Kariba as a result of the drought.

The Zambezi River supplies water for power generation for Zambia and Zimbabwe.

One of the most severe El Niño-induced droughts in the region occurred in the 2015/16 season and left an estimated 40 million people food-insecure, with Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe declaring a state of disaster.

Between January and April 2019, some countries in the region faced weather-related phenomena such as Tropical Cyclones Desmond, Idai and Kenneth, which caused extensive flooding in the Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Cyclone Idai, recorded as one of the worst tropical storms to ever affect Africa and the southern hemisphere, claimed hundreds of lives and left a trail of destruction, including severe damage to key infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools and health facilities.

The consecutive droughts and floods have prompted countries to adopt adaptation measures, both scientific and indigenous, in order to minimise the impact.

During the SADC Council of Ministers meeting in March this year, the SADC Executive Secretary Elias Magosi said that natural disasters continued to reverse development gains that the region has made over the years.

The SADC Humanitarian and Emergency Operations Centre (SHOC) was launched in 2021, based in Nacala, Mozambique.

Once fully operational, the SHOC will coordinate regional disaster risk preparedness, response and early recovery to support Member States affected by disasters.

In addition, Member States are also placing special emphasis on the prevention of natural disasters and improving early warning systems. Adaptation measures are being implemented in the agricultural, fisheries, energy, environmental and water sectors, among others.

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