It has been reported by the UN and other international charities that up to 50 million Africans will be in need of food by the end of the year as the El Niño-caused crisis intensifies. Most parts of southern and eastern Africa have experienced a second year of drought in which crops have failed, water supply has been scarce and food prices have soared. This has left 31 million people in need of food; and a further 20 million are predicted to potentially run out by the end of the year.
Additionally, the UN reported 10 million people in Ethiopia were at risk of starvation due to floods and drought.
The harshest case of El Niño that has been observed in 30 years was anticipated to begin to cease as the equatorial waters in the Pacific region cooled down and resolved back to normal temperatures. Its effects, however, were to be suffered for many additional months, according to the World Food Programme.
“The collective impact of the El Niño phenomenon has created one of the world’s biggest disasters for millions of people, yet the crisis is receiving little attention” stated the UN’s humanitarian chief, Stephen O’Brien. “The numbers are staggering. One million children in eastern and southern Africa alone are severely acutely malnourished, and across southern Africa 32 million people will need assistance and that figure is likely to increase“.
The UN envisions that the peak of the crisis will occur between December and April 2017.
Seven of South African’s nine provinces, along with Malawi, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Angola, Swaziland and Madagascar have declared national emergencies. Other countries who have been severely affected include Kenya, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Botswana and Somalia.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has asked for foreign aid in order to purchase food, and Malawi is presumed to declare that around half the population will be in need of food aid by November. The price of Maize has increased by 60% over main portions of the region within several months.
In Syria, 7 million people, along with 10 million in Ethiopia and 14 million in Yemen were also desperately in need of food – reported the UN. Secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Elhadj As Sy, donated $110 million after being in Malawi and Zimbabwe. He said that “We cannot describe enough how dire the situation is“.
In Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, the World Food Programme country directory Abdoulaye Balde said: “The situation is critical. We are at the point of no return.”
There are increased fears that international donors will not donate enough in time to purchase and distribute food. Their concerns are that the Syrian civil war and refugee disaster are putting unpredicted pressure on foreign aid. $1.5 billion has been requested, but less than 25% of this has been given.
The senior adviser to the UN’s children fund, SHadrack Omol, has said that “The window for responding in a meaningful manner is closing rapidly. The concern is that slow-onset emergencies, like the one that is being dealt with in southern Africa, do not get adequate awareness as they creep up on us.”
Britain has donated around £150 million since July 2015 in order to help countries in Africa that have been affected by El Niño. Nick Hurd, the international development minister, said: “We cannot and will not stand idly by while millions suffer. Britain is playing a leading role in helping countries across Africa to cope with the impact of El Niño. Support for people affected by El Niño is important to Africa and also firmly in Britain’s nation interest.”