Food and nutrition security is an outcome of developmental factors such as access to land, credit, education and employment, as well as access to affordable agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, water and seeds. Gender inequalities, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, natural disasters and climate change all contribute in compounding ways.
According to Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa 2019, about 41.2 million people in 13 countries are estimated to have been food insecure in the 2019 consumption year. When comparing the 11 Member States that provided data in 2018 and 2019, food security increased by 28%. It is also 7.4% higher than it was during the severe El Nino-induced drought of 2016 and 2017.
The report says significant increases in the number of people food insecure from 2018 have been recorded in Zambia at 144 per cent, Zimbabwe 128%, Eswatini 90%, and Mozambique 85% as well as DRC at 80%. This increase, the report says, indicates a cumulative effect of persistent drought conditions compounded by floods, pests, conflict in DRC and northern Mozambique, economic challenges and chronic structural issues. These drivers are exacerbated by climate change.
It was shared in the report that many people in the region suffer micronutrient deficiencies despite diets given that are mainly cereal-based, even where food is available. This result in high numbers of children and other vulnerable populations suffering from malnutrition, the report said. With the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters such as floods and droughts in the region, the risk of malnutrition is higher and the impact borne disproportionately by the most vulnerable.
The report further stressed that addressing malnutrition is a sustainable way and in all its forms- including stunting, wasting, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight- requires an understanding of the underlying causes at the level of the individual, household and community and region. Available 2019 data shows that the prevalence of global acute malnutrition, wasting- being too thin for your height among children under the age of 5 was above 5% in 7 Member States. There are also pockets of high wasting rates that are above 10% in the DRC, Mozambique and Southern Angola as well as Southern Madagascar.
Further, the report added that the stunting prevalence or being too short for your age was above 30%- classified as very high- in 10 of the 16 SADC Member States. It said reduction in stunting is occurring too slowly to meet the World Health Assembly 2025 or the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 targets. The ‘double burden’ of malnutrition- the concurrence of under nutrition and overweight and obesity is also a growing challenge in the region. The prevalence of overweight in four Member States (Botswana 11.2%, Comoros 10.6%, Seychelles 10.2% and South Africa 13.3%) revealed an emerging problem, the report said.
The Synthesis report added that appropriate feeding in the region is multi-dimensional and influenced by factors such as food quality, mothers’ time, level of education and cultural norms. It highlighted that the minimum acceptable diet- a measure of the quality of young children’s diets, is very low, with most Member States having it at less than 15%. This is due to the consumption of monotonous diets and lack of knowledge on appropriate feeding practices; uninformed behavioural patterns which are often influenced by culture; and caregivers’ limited access to health and nutrition services.
On contributing factors, the report stressed that Southern Africa is heavily affected by climate change and variability, and projections suggest that the impact of climate change will become more severe over the next decades. It indicated that the most pronounced manifestation of climate change will be an increase in temperatures, leading to increased heat stress and reduced crop yields. The region’s staple crop maize is particularly prone to the effects of climate change. Changes in rainfall patterns; increasingly erratic rainfall events of high intensity, leading to floods and more frequent droughts and dry spells; as well as a delayed onset of the rainfall season and an early tailing off, thus reducing the growing period for crops.
Current variability and extreme events across the region are increasingly evident. The report observed trends in weather patterns that provided evidence of climate change effects over the region in the last 15 years. Still on this report, it was reported that most cropping is practised during the November to April rainfall season, with the rest of the year being dry. The report shared insight that a strong drought affected central and western parts of the region during the 2018/19 rainfall season.
It said large parts of Southern Angola, Northern and Southern Botswana, Northern Namibia, Northern South Africa and Zimbabwe received their lowest seasonal rainfall totals since at least 1981, when regional, comparable records began. Rains were delayed and erratic, resulting in reduced area planted poor germination and wilting of crops. Angola, Botswana and Namibia declared national drought emergencies. Other countries affected by localized dry spells and drought included Eswatini, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania.
The report said that the drought affected water supplies for domestic, industrial and agricultural use, fodder and pasture continued to decline as the dry season progressed. Over 30 thousand drought related cattle deaths were recorded in Namibia between October 2018 and April 2019- the normal rainfall season. Still on contributing factors, the report indicated that in the first half of the year several countries experienced flooding caused by extreme weather events: heavy rains, hailstorms, strong winds and tropical cyclones.
In February, Madagascar recorded landslides and floods- worsened by Tropical Storm Eketsang- that affected 9.400 people; Malawi reported 135 thousand people flood affected and tropical storm Desmond in Mozambique resulted in the displacement of over 7 thousand people. The situation worsened dramatically when two tropical cyclones- Idai and Kenneth hit Comoros, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, pushing the number of people flood-affected to 3.8 million in these four countries. The report noted that the cyclones destroyed schools and clinics, disrupting access to basic services and causing widespread displacement. They also hit during the harvest. Idai alone destroyed close to 780 thousand ha of standing crops in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
It was reported that cereal production also decreased in Member States countries. Maize accounts for 80% cereal production in the region. Other important cereals are wheat, sorghum, millet and rice. Only 7% of cultivated land is irrigated. It was shared that most farmers in the region are small holders who cultivate less than 5 ha. Furthermore, the report underlined those countries that typically account for most of the regional grain supplies- Zambia and South Africa- also recorded below- average harvest, which have reduced exportable regional surplus from 7.5 million tons to 1.4 million tons. Only South Africa and Tanzania had cereal surpluses in the previous marketing year.
As a response to avert vulture poisoning currently going on in Botswana and KAZA region, Birdlife Botswana has collaborated with three other partners (BirdWatch Zambia, BirdLife International & Birdlife Zimbabwe) to tackle wildlife poisoning which by extension negatively affect vulture populations.
The Director of Birdlife Botswana, Motshereganyi Virat Kootshositse has revealed in an interview that the project which is funded by European Union’s main goal is to reduce poisoning related vultures’ death and consequently other wildlife species death within the KAZA region.
He highlighted that Chobe district in Botswana has been selected as a pilot site as it has experienced rampant incidents of vulture poisoning for the past few months. In August this year at least 50 endangered white backed vultures were reported dead at Chobe National Park, Botswana after feeding on a buffalo carcass laced with poison. In November this year again 43 white backed vultures were found dead and two alive after feeding on a zebra suspected to have poisoned. Other selected pilots’ sites are Kafue in Zambia and Hwange in Zimbabwe.
Kootshositse further explained they have established a national and regional Wildlife Poisoning Committee. He added that as for the national committee they have engaged various departments such as Crop Productions, Agro Chemicals, Department of Veterinary Services, Department of Wildlife and National Parks and other NGOs such as Raptors Botswana to come together and find a long-lasting solution to address wildlife poisoning in Botswana. ‘Let’s have a strategy or a plan together to tackle wildlife poisoning,’ he stated
He also decried that there is gap in the availability of data about vulture poisoning or wildlife in general. ‘If we have a central point for data, it will help in terms of reporting and advocacy’, he stated
He added that the regional committee comprises of law enforcement officers such as BDF and Botswana police, village leadership such as Village Development Committee and Kgosi. ‘We need to join hand together and protect the wildlife we have as this will increase our profile for conservation and this alone enhances our visitation and boost our local economy,’ he noted
Kootshositse noted that Birdlife together with DWNP also addressed series of meeting in some villages in the Chobe region recently. The purpose of kgotla meetings was to raise awareness on the conservation and protection of vultures in Chobe West communities.
‘After realizing that vulture poisoning in the Chobe areas become frequent, we realise that we need to do something about it. ‘We did a public awareness by addressing several kgotla meetings in some villages in the Chobe west,’ he stated
He noted that next year they are going to have another round of consultations around the Chobe areas and the approach is to engage the community into planning process. ‘Residents should be part of the plan of actions and we are working with farmers committee in the areas to address vulture poisoning in the area, ‘he added
He added that they have found out that some common reasons for poisoning wildlife are farmers targeting predators such as lions in retaliation to killing of their livestock. Another common incident cross border poaching in the Chobe area as poachers will kills an elephant and poison its carcass targeting vultures because of their aerial circling alerting authorities about poaching activities.
Kootshositse noted that in the last cases it was disheartening the incidents occurred three months apart. He added that for the first time they found that some of the body parts of some vultures were missing. He added harvesting of body parts of vultures is not a common practice in Botswana, although it is used in some parts of Africa. ‘We suspect that someone took advantage of the availability of carcasses and started harvesting their body parts,’
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Minister of Health Dr Edwin Dikoloti says Africa member states call on World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure equitable resource allocation for 2024-2025. Dr Dikoloti was speaking this week at the WHO Executive Board Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
He said countries agreed that there is need to address the budget and funding imbalances by increasing the programme budget share of countries and regions to 75% for the next year.
“The proposed budget for 2024-2025 marks an important milestone as it is the first in Programme Budget in which country offices will be allocated more than half of the total budget for the biennium. We highly welcome this approach which will enable the organization to deliver on its mandate while fulfilling the expectations for transparency, efficiency and accountability.”
The Botswana Health Minister commended member states on the extension of the General Programme of Work (GPD 13) and the Secretariat work to monitor the progress towards the triple billion targets, and the health-related SDGs.
“We welcome the Director’s general proposed five priorities which have crystalized into the “five Ps” that are aligned with the GPW 13 extension. Impact can only be achieved through close coordination with, and support to national health authorities. As such, the strengthening of country offices is instrumental, with particular focus on strengthening national health systems and on promoting more equitable access to health services.”
According to Dr Dikoloti, the majority of countries with UHC index that is below the global median are in the WHO Africa region. “For that, we call on the WHO to enhance capacity at the regional and national levels in order to accelerate progress. Currently, the regional office needs both technical and financial support in order to effectively address and support country needs.”