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More Than 20 Million People Across Southern Africa Expected to Face Growing Hunger as El Niño Continues

  • news
  • Southern Africa
  • for immediate release: November 08, 2023
More Than 20 Million People Across Southern Africa Expected to Face Growing Hunger as El Niño Continues


Washington, D.C. – The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) has issued an Alert for Southern Africa where the ongoing El Niño is expected to drive below-average rainfall and negatively impact harvests across much of the region, driving high humanitarian food assistance needs into early 2025.

In an Alert issued Wednesday, FEWS NET reported that more than 20 million people across Southern Africa are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse food security outcomes in early 2024, with Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar likely to bear the brunt of El Niño’s adverse effects.

El Niño is expected to result in a below-average October 2023-March 2024 rainy season in several parts of Southern Africa, which will likely drive cereal and cash crop harvests to underperform. Grazing conditions are expected to deteriorate earlier than normal in 2024, and higher-than-average livestock deaths are projected in the second half of 2024 until the start of the 2024/25 rainy season in October. While food security is expected to temporarily improve during the April-May 2024 harvest, FEWS NET anticipates that these improvements will be short-lived as poor households deplete their food stocks earlier than normal. 

These conditions of deprivation will likely result in continued high food assistance needs into 2025. 

"When farmers see that there will likely not be enough rain to grow their crops, they try to minimize the loss of expensive inputs like seeds and fertilizer by planting fewer crops on a smaller amount of land than they normally would,” FEWS NET Team Leader Kiersten Johnson explained. “This means that there will be less food grown to eat or to sell, and it means that there will be less work available for day laborers to do on farms. As a result, farmers and their families will have less to eat and less to sell, and workers will not have money to purchase food in the market. When this happens across a country, or in this case, across several countries, it can quickly turn into a large-scale food crisis that puts peoples’ lives at risk."

In the eastern DRC and Mozambique, ongoing conflict will contribute to high food assistance needs, while economic conditions are expected to be a key driver of emergency food insecurity in Zimbabwe and Malawi.

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Hannah Button
Famine Early Warning Systems Network

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