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Emergencies headlines: Southern Africa

Here you can find previous headlines from Southern Africa. These headlines give updates from our work, and areas of concern, of the whole Oxfam confederation. For further information on any of Oxfam's emergency response programmes around the world please contact the Humanitarian HelpDesk in the first instance.

12 September, 2018

Zimbabwe: Cholera has broken out in Harare; cases are increasing fast, and the Government has declared it a national emergency. Various factors make this outbreak worrying - the population in Harare is dense which raises the risk of cholera spreading, not just within the city but via the many transport routes out. And it is still the dry season, with a high likelihood of the rains making matters worse. Previous outbreaks have been found to have originated from outside the country, but in this case testing on local shallow wells and boreholes has found over half of them to be contaminated with ecoli, salmonella, or cholera. Oxfam began responding quickly to this, supporting Treatment Centres with water purification chemicals and toilets, distributing three-month supplies of soap and aquatabs, and training community health volunteers to visit households and schools making people aware of cholera risks. With current funding we can reach about 10,000 for now, but this crisis could get a lot worse.

03 March, 2017

Zimbabwe: This week the government of Zimbabwe declared a state of national disaster in response to the torrential rains and heavy floods that have swept across southern parts of the country. Hundreds of thousands of people have been affected in the southern provinces of Zimbabwe, with 246 people killed, 2000 currently homeless, and over 100,000 without safe drinking water and enough food. Meanwhile, government agencies are reporting that 85% of the country's dams are full and even low levels of rainfall could trigger more flooding. The effects of a powerful Cyclone Dineo have been further compounded by the fact that the country had already been receiving above average rains since December, as result of the La Nina weather phenomenon.

Oxfam and our partners in Zimbabwe are currently responding to the crisis in Mberengwa District, which is one of worst affected. We've been distributing jerry cans, soap, water and water treatment chemicals, as well as conducting hygiene promotion sessions with affected households. Oxfam is also providing logistical support to the government of Zimbabwe to deliver grains and rice, and our staff remain on standby to support in other districts.

17 February, 2017

Cyclone Dineo - Mozambique and Zimbabwe: Tropical Cyclone Dineo hit Mozambique on Thursday, with high winds and flash floods ripping through the coastline, destroying 20,000 houses and displacing 130,000. One of Oxfam's partners in the country is carrying out an assessment and initial reports suggest there has been significant crop damage as well. We'll know more about plans for a possible response in the coming days.

The cyclone has also hit parts of Zimbabwe with sustained heavy winds and torrential rain. The downpours are expected to continue until Monday in several areas, many of which are already waterlogged after heavy rains. The first phase of Oxfam's response will include distributing emergency shelter items like tarpaulins.

10 February, 2017

Zimbabwe: Oxfam has been working with partners, as well as the government and local authorities, to help contain an outbreak of typhoid in Harare. Our response has benefited greatly from the team's innovative preparatory work which assesses how local markets can be used to provide a more appropriate and effective response. One finding was that people here are much more likely to get into good water treatment habits if they buy the necessary kits and chemicals rather than receive them for NGOs. For this reason, Oxfam provided vouchers, rather than the kits themselves, and even negotiated a buy-one-get-one-free deal with traders to encourage people to stock up. The team has also been training community health volunteers on safe hygiene practices.

20 January, 2017

Zimbabwe: Densely populated suburban areas in Harare are suffering an outbreak of Typhoid, with 373 cases now suspected. Oxfam teams have been quick to react though, with 20 trained hygiene promotion volunteers carrying out hygiene promotion activities and distributing water treatment solution to households and schools. This week, we're continuing door-to-door hygiene promotion visits. These activities are ongoing and engineers are this week installing chlorinators on boreholes.

Malawi: Oxfam Malawi has supported 621,627 people since the beginning of the drought response in April. We've been providing agricultural inputs like sweet potato vines and tools, as well as cash, which gives people the opportunity to buy what they really need while also supporting local traders and stimulating markets. In December, we supported 320,171 people by organising seed fairs as people look to take advantage of the rainy season. On top of this, Oxfam is starting a water, hygiene and sanitation project in 2 districts, which will support over 46,000 people.

28 October, 2016

Malawi: The drought is the worst in 30 years. By mid December - the peak of the lean season (the point between two harvests) - 6.5 million people in Malawi will be in need of support, which is over one third of the total population. We are waiting for official assessments next week which will give us more information, but some people have implied conditions are as bad as the recent crises in the Horn of Africa.

30 September, 2016

The peak of the lean season is approaching in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Mozambique, and the number of people in need of food assistance is likely to shoot up even further in the coming weeks. There are already 2.2m people in need of food assistance in Zimbabwe and 4m in Malawi. As well as the severe lack of food, there are water concerns too with boreholes drying up. 

Zimbabwe: In Zimbabwe, we recently reached 30,000 people with food assistance (a mixture of cash, vouchers and food distributions depending on which best suits the local situation), and a funding boost means we'll be able to expand this programme to reach 115,000 people from October.

Malawi: We've completed a month-long food distribution in the Balaka District and, further south in Mulanje, we're in the process of registering 17,000 people for cash distributions. Our programme in Mozambique is fully funded, and we recently provided food assistance to 22,000 people. The food security situation in the country is still bad though and maize prices are 117% higher than the five-year average.

As we've previously reported, the drought in Southern Africa has been exacerbated by the El Niño effect (El Niño is a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean that has a global impact on weather pattern). This is set to be followed by La Nina, which carries the opposite effect, meaning heavy rains, which will arrive earlier than usual. This may be a mixed blessing, even after a scorching dry season. In Zimbabwe, harvesting season is approaching and the rains are likely to prove timely, but there are worries over possible cholera outbreaks in Malawi.

09 September, 2016

Malawi: With more than 6.5 million Malawians (40% of the country) facing severe food insecurity this year, the impact of the global El Nino continues to deepen. Funding for food assistance remains critically low, with nationwide distributions in August only able to provide around 30% of people's nutritional needs. Oxfam Malawi is re-opening old field bases to provide emergency cash transfers to more than 300,000 people, and additional livelihoods materials to ensure people have the right resources (seeds. etc) in the right places at the right times, and community assets such as systems for water management and the prevention of soil degradation. And with acute malnutrition a serious concern between now and the next harvest in March 2017, we'll be integrating stronger nutrition outreach and education programmes about infant and young child feeding, and strengthening systems to refer serious cases to national prevention and treatment centres.

19 August, 2016

Zimbabwe: The other week we updated on Oxfam's cash distribution programme in Zimbabwe. Watch the video showcasing the team's work, put together by our Southern Africa team.

12 August, 2016

Zimbabwe: Oxfam was featured in the Zimbabwe Herald for our response to the drought in Matabeleland. In the article our staff are warning that poorer households are likely to be short of food at least until March 2017, because of bad harvests and shortages of cash in the economy. Bad harvests mean lower demand for casual labour, and the more poor economic outlook is reducing opportunities for other non-skilled work. But the effect on young women and girls is particularly worrying, as food shortages raise the risks of early marriages and prostitution.  Domestic violence is also reported to be on the rise because of household stress levels. Oxfam's response includes giving cash to households to help them cover the basics - 33,000 people are receiving this now, and we are planning to increase this to 70,000 in September as fundraising efforts start to bear fruit. Where markets are not functioning at all we are providing food rations. The full article is available here: Gvt, Oxfam aids drought-stricken Matobo

05 August, 2016

Zimbabwe: Drought-hit Zimbabwe hasn't yet hit the peak of the lean season, but millions are already short of food. Oxfam is providing cash to help people afford a little more to eat, and giving out food where local markets don't support this way of working. We're also reaching 70,000 people through boreholes rehabilitation and hygiene promotion. The latest predictions say that 4.1 million people will be in need by the peak of the lean season so plans are underway to expand our response further.

29 July, 2016

Malawi: Oxfam Scotland launched its Malawi appeal today with Malawi CD John Makina speaking on BBC Radio Scotland (from min 41:47) this morning.

22 July, 2016

Mozambique: Mozambique suffers regularly with floods, cyclones, and droughts.  Last year El Nino began to make itself felt, and by August 2015 about 300,000 people needed emergency assistance. Oxfam is part of a well-regarded coalition of NGOs which has been trying to raise the profile of the situation, and since last November we have been supporting partners assessing water availability in some of the worst affected areas. We are currently giving food vouchers to 22,000 people - while they are supposed to provide enough food for one month, recipients tend to share their rations with others, and collect wild fruits to make up the shortfall. Conditions have deteriorated over the last 12 months though, and now there are 1.5 million people in need. The NGO coalition wants to scale up urgently to meet the needs of 50% of them.

15 July, 2016

Malawi: Oxfam has made public an ambitious plan to scale up operations in Malawi, in response to the Government's statement that 6.5 million people are in urgent need of assistance. Currently we are helping around 30,000 people with sweet potato vines and up to 77,000 more with emergency cash grants, but if we get the funding we want to help 650,000 between now and mid-2017.

Zimbabwe: The current food security assessment in Zimbabwe (ZimVAC July 2016) states that over 4 million people will have been affected by the devastating El Nino induced drought in the country by Dec 2016. It is estimated that the number of severely food insure population is likely to rise during the lead season of Oct to Dec 2016 and beyond. In the meantime Zimbabwe faces a major liquidity crisis, one of the worst since 2008. This has resulted in adversely impacting our humanitarian programme on the ground. While Oxfam works on changing its modality of humanitarian assistance to the drought affected communities, it is on the ground working with its partners delivering food assistance to over 32,100 people in Masvingo (Gutu district) and Matabeleland South (Matobo district) provinces. Oxfam is planning to scale up its response with an additional 79,000 beneficiaries over the next 4 months to Masvingo rural district during the lean season. We are currently reaching over 14,095 people with provision of safe water through rehabilitation of water points and Oxfam hygiene promotion initiatives in anticipation of a likely La Nina and heavy rains currently covers over 50000 people.

01 July, 2016

Zimbabwe: We have received funding to carry out a programme supporting drought-affected communities with emergency cash grants and seeds/tools.

24 June, 2016

Malawi: With 6.5m people in need of assistance to meet their food needs over the next year, Oxfam plans to scale up food and cash distributions to reach 650,000 people. Since April last year, we have supported 230,000 people, including with distributions of drought-resistant crops, like sweet potato vines.

17 June, 2016

Malawi: One of our water engineers has blogged about the severity of this year's drought, and some of the measures Oxfam is taking to address it. Read Oxfam distributes cash and other assistance to farmers across southern Africa.

10 June, 2016

Malawi: Over 6 million people are thought to need assistance in the face of the drought, which is about 40% of the population. We are working in four districts in the Central and Southern parts of the country, supporting people with short-term cash grants and distributing seeds etc for winter cropping. But with only 10% of the funds we need secured, we are not able to scale up to do what we feel is needed.

Zimbabwe: In the face of major funding constraints Oxfam is working hard to meet the needs of communities suffering in one of the country's worst droughts for decades. Water is very scarce indeed and people are having to cover increasingly large distances to get any; and the situation is not likely to improve in the next few months at least. We have been rehabilitating a series of borewells in two districts of Matabeleland, and given cash grants to help several thousand households via mobile transfer.  This has only been partially effective though, because general shortages of cash mean that beneficiaries can't cash in their entitlements. We are considering other options such as vouchers, or possibly food aid, to get round this problem. A less visible crisis that our staff are seeing is the migration of people away from drought-hit villages, not as entire families though, but members of families leaving to find work. This is increasing vulnerability for those left behind, and was described by one staff member as 'more like desertion than migration'.

20 May, 2016

Regional: Poor households in areas in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Madagascar, Swaziland, and Lesotho that were hit hard by drought this season will continue experiencing food shortages well into the next harvest period. The situation is atypical for this time of the year which should be a harvesting time, but this season has been the driest in 35 years. Across the region only Zambia has produced enough cereals to meet its domestic needs.

Malawi: Oxfam teams have assessed four locations particularly badly affected by drought, where communities are down to one meal a day. We are providing cash grants to people to tide them over (240,000 people have benefited so far) and we are planning to help communities with improved water supplies and seeds in time for the next planting season.

Mozambique: Oxfam is responding to the drought in the north jointly with 3 other international NGOs (Save the Children, Concern Worldwide, and Care) in a consortium that works through partners and has considerable influence and reach. Oxfam leads on giving technical support for public health within this consortium. Between us we have been supporting 175,000 people suffering from severe drought who had lost their entire crop and are also severely short of drinking water.  The few water sources still functional are shared between humans and animals, causing diarrhoeal diseases which exacerbate malnutrition. Given that conditions for the poorest people are not likely to improve for some time, the consortium is seeking funding for a larger response targeting 500,000 people to run for the rest of this year.

22 April, 2016

See El Niño on the Global page