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People in southern Angola suffering from water scarcity and food insecurity

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Angola
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IFRC
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Glide №: DR-2021-000149-AGO

SITUATION OVERVIEW

Angola is facing the worst recorded drought in 40 years, with southern provinces, namely Huila, Cunene and Namibe, experiencing the fifth consecutive year of drought conditions. Food insecurity analysis conducted in Southern Angola found that between October 2021 and March 2022, around 1.58 million people experienced high levels of acute food insecurity (58% of the analysed population), of which 43% are in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) and 15% in IPC Phase 4 (Emergency). The affected population faces severe constraints in accessing food due to consecutive droughts, poor harvests and depleted reserves, loss of livelihoods and livestock, and rising food prices. Those still able to meet the minimum food requirements do so through crisis or emergency coping strategies, such as skipping meals, borrowing, reducing quantities and eating less preferred foods. Furthermore, the lack of access to safe water and sanitation in most rural communities in the south is prolonging the cycle of malnutrition.

The World Bank places the economic impact of the drought at 749 million US dollars. In addition, the economic crisis that hit Angola since 2014 and the subsequent increase in food prices, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the very low crop yield, have severely impacted the most vulnerable and exposed population, eroding livelihoods, agricultural production and coping reserves. Making matters worse, the Southern Provinces of Cunene, Huila and Namibe are suffering from consecutive years of below-average rainfall deficits, hence, agricultural yields and pastoral activities have been severely compromised. Another aspect of climate change has been the increase in pests. Another locust outbreak has been confirmed in Dukama, putting the current season’s crops at risk. This has, therefore, been another damaging cycle in recent years.

More specifically, a report published in March 2022 showed the results of a drought vulnerability study conducted in Angola with a focus on water availability to different communes. Of the five vulnerable provinces studied, 12 of the 16 worst affected communes were in Cunene Province, with Huila and Namibe also named as priority regions for interventions. An estimated 1.2 million people are facing water scarcity and will have their water sanitation and hygiene conditions compromised. Many water points have driedup, and others are not working. In some villages, over 60% of the population consumes water from unsafe sources, and over 90% do not have access to latrines. Access to potable water was already a major constraint in rural areas and was made worse by the drought and escalation in water prices. Water-borne diseases will continue to accentuate malnutrition and lead to severe situations, especially for children. The water availability index predictions show that the bottleneck of the current drought years, as well as the vast variability in water resources in the southern provinces, is expected to continue in the future, with decreases of over 50% possible for South Coast Provinces.

Livestock production has also been affected by the drought. The lack of fodder and rangelands as well as disease, such as the foot and mouth outbreak in 2020, have led to widespread animal deaths over the past three years, with 75% of households reporting having partially lost their livestock. Since March 2021, there has been movement of Angolans into neighbouring Namibia, particularly pastoralists seeking grazing land for their livestock.

In 2022, 400,000 children are projected to be acutely malnourished. The prevalence of global acute malnutrition in some provinces is already above emergency thresholds (15%). An analysis conducted in 10 municipalities of Southern Angola has revealed that, in these municipalities alone, 114,000 children under five are suffering, or will likely suffer from acute malnutrition and require treatment. However, there is a shortage in the supply of therapeutic feeding due to a pipeline break, and the restocking may take several months. Factors contributing to the malnutrition situation include poor dietary intake, inadequate care and feeding practices, and the high prevalence of water-borne diseases and infections due to the lack of access to safe water and sanitation.

Further, the Russia-Ukraine war is impacting regional food security. The onset of the Ukraine conflict came at a time when global fuel, food and fertiliser prices were already hitting record highs. Wheat is the most imported commodity in Angola and an essential part of people’s diet. However, Angola immediately felt the rise in wheat prices - 50% in March 2022 and subsequently increasing further. The inflationary pressure affecting food accessibility will primarily impact the most vulnerable dwellings. Greater discontent, insecurity and upheavals cannot be ruled out.

Droughts like the current one are some of the predicted, and worsening, effects of climate change in the region. Unfortunately, the increase in agricultural and ecological droughts is predicted for Angola in future years. While the provision of lifesaving humanitarian assistance is urgent, there is a need to equip communities to be more resilient to such shocks and adapt to the changing context.