Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) chairperson and Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama will early next week declare the 2015/2016 regional drought a state of disaster and appeal for humanitarian aid to save more than 23-million people from imminent starvation.
In a statement released in Gaborone, SADC said the state of disaster arose from poor harvests caused by the El Nino-induced drought which resulted in massive crop losses in the 2015/2016 farming season.
The organisation said Khama would appeal for global humanitarian and drought relief aid worth US$2.7-billion to cover urgent needs and strengthen social safety nets. Although the drought directly affected the lives and livelihoods of more than 40-million people across the region, millions in Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe needed immediate food aid.
"The appeal will be a formal request to the international community to provide assistance to affected member states. Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have already declared national drought emergencies. South Africa has declared a drought emergency in eight of the country’s nine provinces, while Mozambique has declared a 90-day institutional red alert for some southern and central areas.
"For SADC, the current El Niño-induced drought is the worst in 35 years, following the failure of two consecutive rainy seasons. The severe drought conditions have already taken its toll on lives and livelihoods and the situation could deteriorate further if urgent assistance is not provided," the statement said.
Last month, Khama called for international action to help the region cope with the 2015-2016 drought disaster as member states would not be able do that without external assistance. He said the drought resulted in widespread crop failures and widespread loss of livestock due to a lack of water and pasture resources.