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Food Security in Southern Africa: End-of-Season Update for 2018/19 and Overview of the Food Security Situation in 2019/20

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• Based on the results of the 2019 Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (RVAA), it is estimated that 41 million people will be food insecure in the peak lean season, of which 9 million people require immediate assistance (Table 1).

• Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia account for 75% of the total number needing immediate assistance.

• In Eswatini and Lesotho, 20% and 24% of the rural population are in need of immediate assistance.

• The 41 million food insecure population is the highest figure in the past 10 years (Figure 1, 12,13), which is indicative of cumulative effect of recurrent droughts in the region in addition to conflict-affected DRC. This trend is concerning because it impacts disproportionately on poor and vulnerable households, thereby increasing the risk of malnutrition, poverty and hunger.

• Since the 2015/16 El Niño, the southern Africa region has only seen one favorable season (2016/17, see Southern Africa Region: ENSO, Rainfall, and Harvest Patterns). The WFP drought hotspot analysis estimates that roughly 26 million poor people (excluding South Africa) live within areas that have consistently experienced drought conditions (of varying degrees of severity) since 2015/16 (Figure 3).

• In 2018/19, the region experienced an unusual dichotomy of severe drought and flooding. Western and central parts of the region experienced the driest season in over 35 years, coupled with an unprecedented event of back to back cyclones. Widespread crop failure was observed in Zimbabwe, southern Zambia, northern Namibia and southern Botswana (Figure 2).

• Due to lower cereal production in some of these countries and others, the lean season is expected to start as early as August/September. Tight regional maize supply and higher prices currently being observed in countries such as South Africa and Zambia will affect countries that need to import more maize regionally in the 2019/20 consumption year (see June Price Bulletin for details).

• A WFP study on Malawi shows that household coping strategies peak well before the lean season and the earliest for female-headed households. These point to the need for immediate assistance before the start of this early lean season to prevent significant deterioration in malnutrition outcomes.

• The effect of recurrent droughts in the region also highlights the need for shock-responsive social protection systems and anticipatory actions to ensure adequate coverage of vulnerable and potentially vulnerable households.

• Current seasonal forecasts suggest that we are heading towards ENSO neutral conditions (Figure 4). Continued monitoring of the Oceanic Niño Index and local weather patterns will help in enhancing preparedness and scenario-based planning to identify priority areas for early action to reverse the growing trend of humanitarian needs and build resilience of crises affected populations