President Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama has declared a drought disaster in the SADC region.
Consequently, he launched an appeal to mobilise US$2.4 billion (P25.5 billion) to help SADC respond to the crisis.
Speaking in Gaborone on July 26, President Khama, also SADC chairperson, pointed out that the El Nino induced drought had negatively impacted on livelihoods and quality of lives in the region, leaving 40 million people in hunger.
President Khama said SADC member states were committed to ensuring that the humanitarian impacts of the drought were minimised.
He said Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe were mostly affected by the drought.
The President said the drought, caused by a delayed onset of the 2015/16 rainfall season and erratic rains, had led to the region experiencing its driest period for more than 35 years.
"The severity of the drought conditions overwhelmed the disaster response capacity in most of the affected member states. A number of key socio-economic sectors have been negatively affected. The current drought has resulted in widespread crop production failures and loss of thousands of livestock," President Khama said.
He said several countries had recorded over 50 per cent decline in crop harvest and there had been a depletion of regional grain stocks.
"Cereal supply and demand analysis for the 2016/17 marketing year shows a regional overall cereal deficit of about 9.3 million tonnes. The already serious problem of acute and chronic malnutrition in the region is expected to worsen, increasing risks of mortality of young children and the elderly," he said.
President Khama also said poor rainfalls and high evaporation had resulted in low water levels in major reservoirs in the region, which had affected domestic and agricultural water supplies and hydro-electric power generation.
"In Lesotho, major water levels were at their lowest in January 2016. In Botswana, Gaborone Dam was at its lowest during this period at a level of 1.1 per cent. Low water levels were also reported for Lake Kariba, the Shire River, the Zambezi, Orange, Limpopo and other major rivers," President Khama said.
He said El Nino impacts resulted in disruptions of health services, explaining that affected member states had re-allocated resources to support vulnerable populations through relief and recovery programmes.
Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, SADC executive secretary, said the secretariat held a consultative meeting in collaboration with UN agencies; Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) in February to deliberate on drought effects and required interventions.
She said recommendations of the meeting were presented to the SADC chairperson for consideration.
"The SADC Council of Ministers also deliberated on the outcomes of the consultative meeting in March 2016 and commended the chairperson of SADC for his prompt intervention and for accepting to declare a regional drought disaster," Dr Tax said.
Source: Botswana Daily News.