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Cyclone Idai 6 Months on: CARE Issues Dire warnings as Studies Show 41 Million Face Hunger in Southern Africa

Eliza Machunga, Mozambique. Her crops were destroyed in Cyclone Idai like many farmers.
Eliza Machunga, Mozambique. Her crops were destroyed in Cyclone Idai like many farmers.

BEIRA (September 12, 2019) – A combination of natural disasters made worse by climate change, funding shortfalls and weak economies across southern Africa has increased food insecurity by 28 percent, new findings have revealed.

Six months since the devastating Cyclone Idai struck three southern African countries – Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi – CARE experts are calling on the international community to urgently adopt climate smart agriculture (CSA) to contain chronic food shortages in the region.

“The climate crisis continues to affect agriculture investments and production,” says Matthew Pickard, CARE’s Deputy Regional Director in Southern Africa. “The latest Southern Africa Development Community’s Food and Nutrition Security Report, shows that southern Africa now has 41 million hungry people, compared to 29.4 million people in the 2018 report.”

In mid-March this year, tropical storm Idai struck East and Southern Africa. A second storm, Cyclone Kenneth, followed just six weeks later. Over three million people were affected in Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. More than 1,000 people died in the strong winds and floods, and tens of thousands lost their homes.

The storms, coupled with chronic droughts and pest outbreaks across the region, have exacerbated the hunger crisis.

“We are worried that the situation is getting worse, with increasing numbers of people becoming food insecure and malnourished. We are calling on governments, private sector and non-governmental organizations to focus on CSA by intensifying irrigation, research and technology development,” explains Pickard.

According to the United Nations World Food Programme, 80 percent of Mozambique’s population cannot afford the minimum costs of an adequate diet. Cyclone Idai destroyed more than 1,720,000 acres of crops including corn, cassava, beans, rice and groundnuts such as peanuts.

CARE has been supporting communities across Mozambique with food aid. The aid agency is already working to support affected communities to cope with the immediate humanitarian effects of the food shortages and drought. In Zimbabwe and Malawi CARE is providing emergency water through building boreholes to extract ground water, and in Mozambique through water trucking with help from other organizations. CARE is also supporting education systems and providing seeds and farming materials and job opportunities in road paving.

“We are planning to scale-up our response by distributing seeds for short and long cycle crops to help farmers replant their fields,” says Enma Reyes, CARE’s Livelihood Coordinator in Mozambique. “CARE will work with farmers to improve their agriculture skills and ensure they grow crops that are more resilient to climate change. We will also promote the diversification of economic activities to ensure that farmers have an alternative source of income and become more resilient to shocks caused by climate emergencies.”

So far CARE has distributed rice, peas and oil; but the food aid has not been enough to meet the needs of the affected population. “There are many families that have not yet received help for the following agricultural campaign, and that will increase the number of people without enough to eat in the next months,” adds Reyes.

Inadequate food, according to experts, will likely lead to chronic malnutrition in children – a condition known as “stunting” which is irreversible and causes the physical and cognitive growth disorders.

“Stunting in children continues to be a worrying issue,” says Vitumbiko Chinoko, CARE’s Advocacy and Partnerships Coordinator for Southern Africa. It has negative impacts on the development of whole countries as it impacts directly on future generations.” Stunting impedes the functional and cognitive development, educational performance, and productivity of the child. “Governments should actively prioritize addressing the nutrition issue by promoting and investing in nutrition sensitive agriculture and committing to increase national budget allocation to nutrition specific challenges,” adds Chinoko.


Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside poor girls and women because, equipped with the proper resources, they have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. Last year, CARE worked in 94 countries and reached more than 80 million people around the world. To learn more, please visit: www.care.org.


Mahmoud Shabeeb, +962-79-146-39-03 mahmoud.shabeeb@care.org (based in Amman, Jordan)

Vanessa Parra, 917-525-0590, vanessa.parra@care.org 

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