Angola food crisis: ‘Because of hunger I am here’
With her baby wrapped snugly around her back, Usenia Semaneli braves the Kunene River on foot, supported by nothing but a walking stick. “Crocodiles live in those waters,” she says, “but you stop fearing anything. When you are hungry, you just choose to cross.”
“When I was young, we used to get good rain,” says Usenia, who takes a break from her journey to share her story.
Exactly how many people have made the trek from Angola to Namibia in the last few years is unclear. People have crossed the border for years to visit relatives, buy or sell goods. But in 2020 and 2021 it’s estimated thatat least 3,000 people from Angola were living in various encampments and host communities around border towns in northern Namibia. They came from various parts of Angola and from different tribes, but they tell a similar story. No rain. Failed crops. Livestock gone. A long perilous journey to Namibia.
The troubles began in 2020, as dryness persisted through what would normally be the rainy season, which typically runs from November to April.Many of those most affected are children, lactating mothers, and the elderly. “We ate just a little bit every day, but all the children started to get weak,” says Usenia. “When you spend so many days without food it’s like you are confused. You lose control of your mind and everything is just turning around in front of your eyes.”
We used to walk during the day and at sunset we went to sleep,” saysDeolinda, who made a ten-day trek to Namibia with her granddaughter Venonyaand some other children.
“Food was a big challenge throughout the journey. We didn’t have any food but we had to keep on walking. It was tough for me because I was traveling alone with the children. The journey was difficult, but I received help from people who carried my children… Not knowing whether the baby would survive or even make it, I was hoping for the best but also preparing myself for the worst”, she says.
“When we arrived, Venonya was severely malnourished, so we took her to Outapi Hospital,” says Deolinda. “At first, when I arrived at the hospital I was scared because I feared that the baby would die. It was difficult to even find a vein to put a drip in the child, so I was scared. After a while, my baby got better and I started to feel calmer. We returned to the camp only a week ago with Venonya recovered, she stayed in the hospital for a week and a half.”
“It took us almost ten days traveling, walking,” says Mwandjukatji, who found her way to a camp for migrants close to the town of Omusati, near Namibia’s northwestern border with Angola. “On the way,some of my daughters lost their children. Sometimes when we woke up we tried giving the children some water but they wouldn’t open their mouths, they died on the way. We had to leave them behind.”
They knew the journey would be perilous, but staying in the end was not an option. “For a time, we debated what to do, and for a long while, we refused to leave our land,” she says. “But the hunger was growing unbearable. Because of that hunger, we decided to go to Namibia. We thought maybe we will survive there.”
Mwandjukatji found temporary respite in a shelter she made using sticks, cardboard and plastic. There, she got by on food provided by local agencies and relief groups such as theNamibian Red Cross. “We heard that there was a camp where they were giving food to people like us who came from Angola,” says Mwandjukatji. “We receive some food and that is an enormous relief for us, because if we weren’t here most of our children would die.”
“This shelter is not as strong, not the same, as our home. For our homes, we used to use strong sticks and sand mixed with cow dung, plus we had a fire inside the house. This is not the same. We can’t have a fire inside, and when it rains, the water seeps in. But here we have food at least.”
The migrants saythe kindness of strangers has been critical to their survival, be it local leaders who let them stay on their land, government authorities, the Namibian Red Cross, or local residents who offered various kinds of support. The man in a blue shirt above, named Konguari, ran a garden hose from houseto give out water every evening.
“In Opuwo, it is not uncommon to see people, usually men, coming from Angola looking for work. When I saw many women and children arriving, I knew something wasn’t right. I noticed that, although they were hungry, they were growing desperate for water. Very often they went in the field walking for hours to get wood that they sold in the market. With the money they got from the firewood they immediately bought water. When I saw this, I said to myself, ‘no, this isn’t right. Could it be possible for me to assist these people?’”
A steady source of support
The Namibian Red Cross Society (NRCS)has also been a steady source of support, providing food, water, health and hygiene support. A significant proportion of the people they helped have been children: of the4,027 people assistedin the Etunda and Opuwo areas of Kunene region last year, more than half were between 1 and 16 year old. More than 400 were lactating or pregnant women.
The NRCS is one of numerous Red Cross of Red Crescent National Societies working on the frontlines of climate-related displacement,according to a 2021 climate displacement report by the IFRC. Their work includes responding to crises and building resilience to future shocks by preparing for and reducing climate risks. Around the world, floods, storms, wildfires, landslides, extreme temperatures and drought have caused the displacement of 30.7 million people, according to the report.
“Our government tries its best to help the immigrants from Angola, and different organisations also try to help,” says Rijamekee, a Namibian Red Cross volunteer who lives in Northern Namibia and provides displaced people and vulnerable local residents with food, water, and health and hygiene support. “Anyone, who is out there should try their best to help these people. And not only the Angolans but anyone who is in need”, he says.
Climate change does not affect everyone equally. Children, the elderly, people with physical disabilities and other vulnerable and marginalized people are hit the hardestbecause climate change compounds the challenges they already face. “For the most part I crawled until I reached Namibia,” says Mekondo, who made his way from Angola to Namibia on his hands and knees. “I wore double pants until they peeled and tore at the knees. For my hands I used a pair of sandals so that I could crawl on the pavement.”
“Although I feel well here because I have food, I feel bad for my mother who is still in Angola. I left her under the care of another person, but they were also hungry and were looking for food. I don’t know what to do because I don’t have money and I can’t crawl back all the way through that difficult journey, so I don’t feel well thinking about my mother living there without any food.”
Recent rainfalls have allowed many of the migrants to return to Angola, while others remain in host communities in northern Namibia. But the risk is far from over. The recentrainfalls come late in what is normally the rainy season, and they weren’t nearly enough to sustain a season of crops. But people remain hopeful as many of these 21stcentury climate migrants have missed their homes and always wanted to return as soon as possible.
“I miss home,” says Mwandjukatji. “But the problem is that if we went home we would always be worried about what we were going to eat that day. When the hunger started there we sold our hoes and all the tools that we used to cultivate in order to get food. So now we don’t have those things and if we return we don’t have tools to cultivate. How are we going to get those tools to start again?”
This story was produced and originally published by the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine. To learn about the Magazine, and to read more stories like this,click here.
Africa: Hunger crisis
Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing one of the most alarming food crises in decades—immense in both its severity and geographic scope.Roughly 146 million people are suffering from acute food insecurity and require urgent humanitarian assistance. The crisis is driven by a range of local and global factors, including insecurity and armed conflict, extreme weather events, climate variability and negative macroeconomic impacts. Through this regional Emergency Appeal, the IFRC is supporting many Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies across Africa to protect the lives, livelihoods and prospects of millions of people.
| Press release
Crisis fatigue not an option as global hunger crisis deepens, the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement warns
Geneva, 13 September 2022 (ICRC/IFRC) – The warning lights are flashing on high: armed conflict, climate-related emergencies, economic hardship and political obstacles are leading to a growing wave of hunger in countries around the world. The misery for millions will deepen without immediate urgent action.
Systems-level improvements must be made to escape a cycle of recurrent crises, including investments in climate-smart food production in conflict-affected areas, and reliable mechanisms to support hard-to-reach communities hit by food shortages and skyrocketing prices, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said ahead of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.
The international armed conflict in Ukraine has greatly disrupted global food supply systems as well as future harvests in many countries due to the impact it’s having on the availability of fertilizer. The importance of more shipments by the Black Sea grain initiative reaching vulnerable populations in East Africa cannot be overstated. Too few grain shipments are getting to where they are needed.
As hunger emergencies hit the headlines, the risk of crisis fatigue is high. Yet what’s uniquely frightening about this moment is the breadth and depth of the needs. More than 140 million people face acute food insecurity due to conflict and instability, even as climate change and economic precarity indicate that hunger needs will rise in the coming months.
Political will and resources are needed now. Without them, many lives will be lost, and the suffering will endure for years. An emergency response alone will not end these hunger crises. Concerted action and long-term approaches are the only way to break the cycle.
While addressing urgent needs, it is essential to set the foundation for resilience. More efforts must be made — by governments, private sectors, and humanitarian and development groups — to support long-term food security, livelihoods, and resilience plans.
Measures must include investments in strengthening grassroots food systems and community actors to sustainably achieve food and economic security. One of the approaches to consider is anticipatory action for food security, based on forecasts and risk analysis.
Francesco Rocca, President of the IFRC, said:
“Two dozen countries across Africa are grappling with the worst food crisis in decades. Some 22 million people in the Horn of Africa are in the clutches of starvation due to such compounding crises as drought, flooding, COVID-19’s economic effects, conflict – even desert locusts. Behind the staggeringly high numbers are real people – men, women and children battling death-level hunger every day. The situation is expected to deteriorate into 2023. However, with swift action, many lives can be saved. We need urgent and massive action to scale up life-saving assistance to millions of people in dire need of aid, but also to decisively address the root causes of this crisis through longer term commitments.”
The IFRC and its membership—which consists of Red Cross and Red Crescent teams in nearly every corner of the globe—are delivering aid in hard-to-reach communities. Assistance includes getting cash into the hands of families to meet food, health and other urgent needs. In Nigeria, Red Cross volunteers focus on pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, whose nutrition is paramount for healthy births and childhoods. In Madagascar, volunteers restore land and water sources through anti-erosion activities, the construction of water points, and a focus on irrigation in addition to traditional ways to fight hunger, like nutrition monitoring.
Peter Maurer, President of the ICRC, said:
“Conflict is a huge driver of hunger. We see violence preventing farmers from planting and harvesting. We see sanctions and blockades preventing food delivery to the most vulnerable. My wish is that we build resiliency into the fabric of humanitarian response, so that communities suffer less when violence and climate change upend lives. A cycle of band-aid solutions will not be enough in coming years.”
The ICRC this year has helped nearly 1 million people in south and central Somalia buy a month’s worth of food by distributing cash to more than 150,000 households. A similar programme in Nigeria helped 675,000 people, while more than a quarter million people received climate smart agriculture inputs to restore crop production. The ICRC works to strengthen resilience through seeds, tools and livestock care so that residents can better absorb recurrent shocks. And its medical professionals are running stabilization centres in places like Somalia, where kids are getting specialized nutrition care.
Communities around the world are suffering deep hardship. A short snapshot of some of the regions in need includes:
In Sub-Saharan Africa: One in three children under the age of five is stunted by chronic undernutrition, while two out of five women of childbearing age are anaemic because of poor diets. The majority of people in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1.90 a day.
In Afghanistan: The combination of three decades of armed conflict and an economic crash resulting in few job opportunities and a massive banking crisis are having a devastating effect on Afghan families’ ability to buy food. More than half the country – 24 million – need assistance. The International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement welcomes any measure aimed at easing the effect of economic sanctions. But given the depth of the humanitarian crisis, long-term solutions are also needed, including the resumption of projects and investments by states and development agencies in key infrastructure.
In Pakistan: The recent flooding has led to an estimated $12 billion in losses. Food security in the country was alarming before this latest catastrophe, with 43 percent of the population food insecure. Now the number of acutely hungry people is expected to rise substantially. Some 78,000 square kilometers (21 million acres) of crops are under water. An estimated 65 percent of the country’s food basket – crops like rice and wheat– have been destroyed, with over 733,000 livestock reportedly killed. The floods will also negatively affect food delivery into neighboring Afghanistan.
In Somalia: We have seen a five-fold increase in the number of malnourished children needing care. Last month the Bay Regional Hospital in Baidoa admitted 466 children, up from 82 in August 2021. Children admitted here die without the specialized nutritional care they receive.
In Syria: Food insecurity rates have risen more than 50 percent since 2019. Today, two-thirds of Syria’s population –12.4 million out of 18 million – can’t meet their daily food needs. The compounding effects of more than a decade of conflict, including the consequences of sanctions, have crippled people’s buying power. Food prices have risen five-fold in the last two years.
In Yemen: Most Yemenis survive on one meal a day. Last year 53 percent of Yemen’s population were food insecure. This year it’s 63 percent – or some 19 million people. Aid actors have been forced to cut food assistance due to a lack of funds. Some 5 million people will now receive less than 50 percent of their daily nutritional requirement because of it.
Notes to editors
For more information, please contact:
IFRC:Tommaso Della Longa, [email protected], +41 79 708 43 67
IFRC: Jenelle Eli, [email protected], +41 79 935 97 40
ICRC:Crystal Wells, [email protected], +41 79 642 80 56
ICRC: Jason Straziuso, [email protected], +41 79 949 35 12
Horn of Africa photos and b-roll
Pakistan floods photos and b-roll
Somalia cash programme photos and b-roll
Kenya sees climate shocks b-roll
“Hunger is one of the most undignified sufferings of humanity”: Tackling food insecurity in Africa and beyond
Food insecurity is not a new phenomenon. But the recent escalation in severity and geographical spread of chronic hunger is serious cause for alarm.
The hunger crisis is most starkly felt on the African continent, where many regions, notably the Horn of Africa, Sahel and Lake Chad regions, are experiencing the worst food crisis in decades.
Millions of people are facing hunger across Africa—prompting the IFRC to launch Emergency Appeals for hunger crises in Nigeria, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Niger and Angola all within the past year.
Back in May, I met some of those affected whilevisiting drought-affected areas in Marsabit County, Kenya—where levels of malnutrition are among the highest on the continent.
I saw first-hand the level of suffering caused by a severe lack of rainfall over four consecutive seasons, coupled with pre-existing vulnerability in parts of the County. Children, young mothers and the elderly are most affected and facing near depletion of their livelihoods.
Although this hunger crisis is, to a large extent, climate-induced, it is also driven by the effects of widespread locust swarms, disease outbreaks, conflict and insecurity, and economic slowdowns—including those triggered by COVID-19.
Furthermore, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine is disrupting the global trade of food, fertilizers and oil products, with prices of agricultural products reaching record highs. Eastern Africa, for instance, gets 90 per cent of its imported wheat from Russia and Ukraine (source: WFP), and the conflict has led to significant shortages. The Ukraine crisis has also diverted both the attention and resources from other crises.
While Ukraine is an extremely worrying crisis, affecting millions, we cannot afford to lose sight of other urgent crises around the world. Not least of which is the rapidly deteriorating food security situation in many parts of Africa. The clock is ticking and soon it may be too late to avert a widespread tragedy.
So the question that should concern us all is: what can we do, as a humanitarian collective, to avoid the tragic history of the early 1980s repeating itself?
We need urgent and massive action to scale up life-saving assistance to millions of people on the verge of collapsing, but also to decisively address the root causes of this crisis through longer term commitments.
The IFRC has an important and unique role to play. With our unparalleled community reach and expertise, our 100+ years of humanitarian experience, our ability to act both locally and globally, and our National Societies’ special status as auxiliaries to public authorities—we can turn this tide. But we need the resources to do so.
Our collective immediate priority is to muster life-saving support, within and outside our IFRC network, for the next six months—paying particular attention to the Horn of Africa, Central Sahel and other hot spots across the continent.
During this emergency phase, we will focus our support on the things we know from experience will make the most difference to affected people’s lives and livelihoods: food assistance, cash programmes and nutrition support.
At the same time, we will develop longer-term programming, together with interested National Societies, to address the root causes of food insecurity. We will build on our previous successes and work in support of governments’ plans and frameworks to restore the resilience of the most impoverished communities, including displaced populations.
Everything we do will be underpinned by solid data and meaningful community engagement to ensure that our response is evidence-based and tailor-made.
Hunger is one of the most undignified sufferings of humanity. To alleviate human suffering, we must rise to this challenge through collective mobilization and action—both in the immediate and long-term.
We simply cannot afford to do too little, too late.
The IFRC network reached 4.8 million people with food assistance and non-food items, combining all humanitarian response operations (Emergency Appeals, DREFs and our COVID-19 response)
More than 20 African National Societies have been implementing food security-related projects as part of their regular programming
33 African National Societies have increased their capacity to deliver cash and voucher assistance
Click here to learn more about the IFRC’s work in food security and livelihoods.
You may also be interested in reading:
'To beat Africa’s hunger crises, start with long-term planning' -opinion piece in Devex by IFRC Regional Director for Africa, Mohammed Omer Mukhier-Abuzein
'Because of hunger, I am here' - photo story from the Red Cross Red Crescent Magazine about Angolan refugees fleeing to Namibia due to the drought and resulting lack of food and water
And scroll down to learn more about our active Emergency Appeals for food insecurity in Africa and beyond.
Angola Red Cross
Urgent action needed for countries in Southern Africa threatened by drought
All countries in the Southern Africa are currently experiencing pockets of dryness. Worryingly for the sub-region, Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe have declared state of emergencies due to looming drought. The United Nations Climate Action Summit scheduled for 23 September 2019 in New York, United States of America, presents a timely opportunity for urgent global discussions that will hopefully culminate inconcrete, realistic plans to address thedisproportionate impacts of climate change on developing countries.
Southern Africa is one of the regions most affected by serious impacts of climate-induced natural disasters. This year alone, a succession ofcyclonesandfloodshas already resulted in significant loss of life and assets in Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe, and kept humanitarian organisations busy with emergency responses, as well as recovery and rebuilding efforts.
Tropical cyclones Idai and Kenneth were different in that they managed to attract global attention because they caused significant devastation during a short period. Climate change-induced natural disasters in Southern Africa are often invisible in the global media, even though they are protracted and threaten the livelihoods of millions. Even lower-level cyclones can cause devastating floods that are quickly followed by debilitating droughts.
Many national economies in Southern Africa are agriculturally based and as long as climate change mitigation strategies enshrined in existing globalpoliciesare not wholeheartedly implemented, a significant portion of the 340 million inhabitants of Southern Africa could be food-insecure in the long-term because of famine.
The increased mass movement of people from areas affected by climate-induced natural disasters is also more likely. Internal and external migration will necessitate greater coordination among humanitarian organisations to adequately support receiving communities and countries to respond to the added burden introduced by new arrivals.
The effects of food insecurity and mass movements are felt most by the vulnerable in our communities, such as the chronically ill and disabled, and women and children. They also place immense pressure on already strained health systems in many countries in the sub-region. With the necessary funds, the Red Cross Movement has the capability and is well placed to address some of the consequences. But urgent action is still needed on the climate change question.
Climate change is certain and evident. Its effects are being felt more in less developed nations, especially in southern Africa. Efforts for adaptation are essential not only to decrease the negative consequences but also to increase opportunities for communities to be more resilient in the long-term.
Countries in the sub-region are acting to decrease their response times to calamities and improve their communities’ readiness to mitigate impacts of natural disasters. Mozambique is the first country in Africa to have an Early Action Protocol approved; the protocol harnesses the power offorecast-based financingto ensure that humanitarian responses are more responsive and proactive. Malawi’s protocol is under review and Zambia’s is currently in development.
The need for humanitarian assistance in Southern Africa in the latter part of 2019 and into 2020 will be greater with the imminent drought. Notwithstanding ongoing local efforts to improve countries’ and communities’ disaster risk management practices and increase their resilience, global stakeholders have a responsibility to definitively act to reduce the need for climate change-induced disaster mitigation efforts in the most affected developing countries.
Originally published in the Southern Times Newspaper
Women are the agents of change for climate change in southern Africa
By: Dr Michael Charles
Today South Africa marks Women’s Day. Much like the women being commemorated for the march to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956, women in southern Africa today may well hold the same flint that lights a “new movement” – climate change.
Southern Africa is one of the regions projected to experience the most serious consequences of global warming and the El Niño effect. In 2019, we experienced one of the worst disasters the region has ever seen - Cyclone Idai ravaged communities in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe and continue to rebuild their lives.
Urgent action is needed to increase the region’s preparedness for natural disasters. It is only a matter of time until the next disaster strikes. Being female often automatically means that personal susceptibility to sexual and domestic violence, rape and assault in emergency situations is significantly heightened. Women experience additional difficulties because they are typically responsible for sourcing water and preparing food; caring for children, the injured, sick and elderly; and maintaining family and community cohesion.
Tackling climate change is, undoubtedly, women’s business. They have a vested interest in avoiding and mitigating the impacts of climate change. It is time that humanitarian actors and policy and decision-makers mainstream gender in policy and practice. It is not a “nice to do”; it is crucial to making real and sustainable differences in the lives of affected people.
In 1956, 200,000 South African women declared that enough was enough and acted to defend themselves and the unity and integrity of their families from restrictive laws that required them to carry a pass to reside and move freely in urban areas.
Wathint'Abafazi Wathint'imbokodo! Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock! was the rallying cry of that day, used to signify the women’s unshakeable and unbreakable resolve in the face of adversity as they marched to the Union Building in Pretoria, and sparked change in the course of South Africa’s history.
As countries in southern Africa ramp up their disaster risk management and humanitarian organisations work to strengthen community recovery and resilience, women in southern Africa should not just be considered victims and survivors who need special protection and assistance. They are forces for change who can be relied on to represent themselves within their communities and at the highest decision-making levels.
I am always inspired by the women I meet responding in disasters, most recently in Cyclone Idai. Women like, Sonia, a volunteer who was working long hours to support women in a shelter, displaced by Cyclone Idai or Flora, who was affected herself by flooding but was dedicated to helping her neighbours rebuild their homes and their lives.
Happy Women’s Day, South Africa. May the flame that was lit in 1956 and the fire of women’s empowerment and participation that was built over the decades rage on.