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RIASCO Action Plan for Southern Africa: Response Plan for the El Niño-induced Drought in Southern Africa (May 2016 - April 2017)

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The 2015-16 El Niño event has resulted in the worst drought in much of southern Africa in 35 years. is has had a catastrophic e ect on the food security of millions of people across the region. Beyond a food security crisis, the region has wider humanitarian needs that result from water scarcity, including impacts on access to water and sanitation, education, health services and livelihoods. Similarly, the e ects extend beyond the immediate live-saving measures of humanitarian assistance, impacting development programs aimed at building the resilience of people to overcome shocks in the future.

In recognition of the magnitude of the shock, the Regional Inter-agency Standing Committee (RIASCO) has developed this action plan for Southern Africa. This plan addresses not only the immediate humanitarian needs, but also outlines what needs to be done to build the resilience of the a ected population to better handle future shocks, and lay out the macro-economic measures required to better enable the countries of the region to respond to such crises now and in the future. is plan is informed by the 2016 SADC Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) results and re ects the country level responses as reported in national response plans. Many of these are currently being updated to re ect the latest vulnerability data from SADC. The RIASCO Action Plan has been developed together with and is complementary to the appeal recently launched by the South African Development Community (SADC). It can be considered a sub-set of the SADC Appeal, as it captures the e ects of El Niño in the seven most-affected countries (Angola, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe), as opposed to the SADC Appeal that includes all member states except for DRC and Tanzania. Furthermore, the RIASCO plan is limited to the international community’s response in the seven countries whilst the SADC Appeal expresses member state’s needs beyond the international requirements. In short, readers should see the two processes as complementary.

This Action Plan seeks to support Governments to ensure that alongside the necessary humanitarian response they can address systemic issues necessary to avoid repeat shocks and build resilience. is latest crisis provides a unique opportunity for joint action amongst diverse stakeholders, by enhancing our collective understanding of the range of response options along the humanitarian, resilience, macro-economic and risk management spectrum. The objective of the RIASCO Action Plan is to break down traditional siloes typical of emergency responses, and encourage governments, humanitarian relief agencies, and development partners to work together to meet the immediate humanitarian needs whilst also taking into account the need to build the resilience of the a ected population to better handle future shocks. Furthermore, a range of macro-economic and risk management instruments are required to better enable the countries of the region to respond to such crises now and in the future.

The Action Plan is therefore structured along three main pillars: Humanitarian response, Resilience, and Macro-economic and risk management. e humanitarian pillar was co-led by WFP, OCHA and UNICEF; the resilience pillar was co-led by World Vision, FAO and UNDP and the macro-economic and risk management pillar was co-led by the World Bank, with inputs from AfDB, OCHA and ARC. In addition the Action Plan bene tted from WHO’s contribution.

This Action Plan provides a framework for a sequenced and prioritized cross-sectoral framework of relief and recovery actions to be implemented in the short (0-12 months), medium (12-36 months) and long- term (+36 months) which seeks to balance humanitarian needs alongside more systemic resilience and risk mitigating measures. It also seeks to provide a prioritization of countries most in need of humanitarian assistance, using a multi-indicator model that recognizes the need to guide donors to strategically allocate funds for maximum impact.

This is a slow onset crisis with wide ranging effects over a period of time. Those involved in developing this plan recognize that it’s not exhaustive and as such will need to be revisited in October, once further assessments and analyses of the unfolding crisis are undertaken. is also allows for a clearer picture of the likelihood and impacts of the La Niña risk in the region to be further understood.

Key messages

The El Niño climatic event has caused the worst drought in 35 years in Southern Africa. e drought has compounded existing vulnerabilities resulting in severe food shortages, particularly in Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

An estimated 32 million people will be food insecure between June 2016 and March 2017 including some 18.6 million who will require urgent humanitarian assistance. These figures could change significantly.

The humanitarian impact extends beyond food insecurity; increased levels of malnutrition and difficulty in accessing water have been reported as well as higher school drop-out rates, increased incidence of communicable diseases, and rural to urban migration.

The humanitarian impact is compounded by communicable disease outbreaks, especially yellow fever, economic shocks as well as the risk of civil unrest and conflict, especially in those countries going to the polls.

While the current diminished harvest provides some temporary respite, the lean season will start earlier than normal, and at its peak 12.3 million people will require international humanitarian assistance, costing US$ 1.2 billion, of which 19 per cent has been contributed to date. An additional US $ 200 million is urgently needed to ensure timely procurement and avoid pipeline breaks.

There is an increasing probability of La Niña occurring toward the end of the year, and contingency plans need to incorporate the possibility of localized ooding as well as interventions enabling people to capitalize on potentially good rains.

This Action Plan combines immediate life-saving humanitarian action, with a range of practical options to address systemic issues necessary to avoid repeated shocks and build resilience.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.