How southern Africa is coping with worst global food crisis for 25 years

From Angola to Zimbabwe, food prices are soaring and malnutrition is on the rise as the latest El Niño weather event takes a brutal toll


Drought is affecting 1.4 million people across seven of Angola’s 18 provinces. Food prices have rocketed and acute malnutrition rates have doubled, with more than 95,000 children affected. Food insecurity is expected to worsen from July to the end of the year.


Three years of drought have hit the country’s livestock and arable farming sectors hard. At least 50,000 people are in danger of severe malnutrition.


A “red alert” has been announced for southern and central provinces. Some rain fell in April in southern Mozambique, but most of this year’s harvest has been lost. Nearly 500,000 people are being given food aid.


Up to 8 million people, or half the country, will need food aid after a second year of drought and disastrous floods in 2015. More than 1m tonnes of food are needed. The situation is worst in the south and central regions.


About 500,000 Namibians are dependent on government food aid after crops failed for a third year running. Businesses in Windhoek, the capital, have been ordered by city authorities to cut water consumption by 30%.

South Africa

Seven provinces have declared a drought crisis. Maize production is down 40%. South Africa, which normally exports about 1m tonnes of food a year, will have to import about 3.5m tonnes of corn.


Food prices have escalated and the country’s staple food, maize, has been subject to a 66% price hike since January. The UN has provided $3m (£207m) for food and emergency relief for 95,000 affected people.


Tanzania has an electricity crisis after it had to shut its hydropower plants because drought is causing low water levels in its dams. Food prices have soared. Local farmers and pastoralists have clashed over dwindling pasture and water supplies and Kenyan and Ugandan farmers have invaded national parks with their cattle.


Zambia has been rationing electricity because of a lack of water in dams, but the maize harvest has been the most successful in the region.


A state of disaster has been declared. Half the country’s rural population of 10 million people will need food assistance by Christmas. The government has appealed for $1.5bn but only $200m has been pledged.

South Sudan

Up to 5.3 million people face severe food shortages, especially in the non-conflict affected states of Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Eastern Equatoria. From January to March, 2.8 million people were classed as being in “crisis” or “emergency” food situations. The UN humanitarian plan for South Sudan has received only 27% of the $1.29bn needed.


After one of its worst droughts in decades, Ethiopia is now being lashed by heavy rains and flash floods. The government and international donors have pledged more than $700m in emergency aid but experts say the country still needs $600m more.


John Vidal

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
'I was so hungry I ate water lilies': southern Africa's food crisis in a dozen dishes | John Vidal
What do people eat in a land devastated by crop failure and drought? John Vidal sits down with farmers, villagers and aid workers to find out

John Vidal

17, Dec, 2016 @9:00 AM

Article image
Lift 'unfair' ban on ivory trade, southern African leaders urge summit
Zimbabwe, Botswana, Zambia, Angola and Namibia call for embargo suspension to allow sale of hugely valuable stockpiles

Nyasha Chingono in Victoria Falls

26, Jun, 2019 @5:00 AM

Article image
South Africa flood death toll rises as government declares 33 disaster zones
Warnings of humanitarian crises after flooding claims more than 100 lives and threatens rest of southern Africa

David Smith in Johannesburg

24, Jan, 2011 @2:08 PM

Article image
The year's top development stories: 2017 in review
As Donald Trump cut funding for family planning and people from east Africa to Yemen went hungry, peace finally gained a foothold in Colombia

Lucy Lamble

25, Dec, 2017 @11:00 AM

Article image
Does US food security strategy go far enough?

Yesterday, the US government published its Feed the Future strategy document to reduce hunger and increase food security. But does it really address the underlying causes of hunger?

Eliza Anyangwe and Liz Ford

21, May, 2010 @2:13 PM

Article image
'It's a disaster': children bear brunt of southern Africa's devastating drought | Lucy Lamble
In southern Malawi and Zimbabwe, drought is overwhelming communities, forcing families to rely on meals of leaves and watermelon soup

Lucy Lamble in Harare and Lilongwe

21, Apr, 2016 @9:27 AM

Article image
Southern African countries collaborate on plans for climate research centre

Windhoek-based facility to open in August after South Africa, Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Namibia commit to project

David Smith in Johannesburg

23, Apr, 2012 @6:00 AM

Article image
Africa is not rising, survey shows

Research suggests that the boom benefits only a narrow elite while leaving the poor and unemployed behind, says David Smith

David Smith Africa correspondent

02, Oct, 2013 @3:54 PM

Article image
Musicians hit hard by festival cancellations in southern Africa
Coronavirus has forced events including AfrikaBurn and Bushfire to cancel, leaving performers without promotional platforms and income

Silence Charumbira

12, Jun, 2020 @6:15 AM

Article image
World’s poorest bear brunt of climate crisis: 10 underreported emergencies
Care International report highlights ‘deep injustice’ neglected by world’s media, as extreme weather along with Covid wipes out decades of progress

Saeed Kamali Dehghan

14, Jan, 2022 @6:15 AM