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Regional themes > Food security Last update: 2020-11-27  

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"Maintaining the Momentum" - Summary Note of the Regional Consultation on Humanitarian Assistance Needs in Southern Africa

2. Session TWO: VULNERABILITY ANALYSIS - The Regional Perspective
A joint presentation by 3 members of the SADC Regional Vulnerability Assessment Committee (RVAC) provided a regional overview of the Vulnerability Assessment (VA) Process and results from a regional perspective. Douglas Magunda, of the SADC Regional Database Project, began with an overview of the chronological events related to the VA process as well as the complex and chronic nature of vulnerability to food insecurity in the region. This was followed by Neil Marsland of FEWSNET who presented more details regarding the Livelihoods based analysis that is used in the region and how people coped with the situation. Joyce Luma, Regional VAM Officer for WFP, presented the implications of last year's crisis and the relationship to the chronic, underlying factors, and recommendations and implications for decision-makers and actions required. (The power-point presentation can be found on the accompanying CD-ROM or on

To date, VAs have been completed in 4 of the 6 countries, while Mozambique and Malawi National Vulnerability Assessment Committees (NVACs) are currently in the field or completing data analysis and drafting a final report. It was understood that these studies would be completed as a matter of urgency.

The VAs portrayed the complexity of the situation, demonstrating the increasingly uneven distribution of vulnerability within countries. The assessments also pointed out that there has been carry-over effects of vulnerability from last year and that families are now less resilient to shocks. HIV/AIDS continues to have a devastating impact on individuals, households, and communities as they struggle to make ends meet, while at the same time, attempting to deal with the economic impacts of the disease and meet their basic household food requirements. The notion of whether or not these people can ever fully recover and return to the normal pattern of livelihoods was once again called into question.

Much of the population affected by this crisis relied on coping mechanisms - normal, traditional means, as well as abnormal and more economically and personally destructive - in order to bridge the gaps in their daily subsistence. Households resorted to selling tools, bicycles and even livestock and continue to suffer from depleted productive assets. There was also depletion in human capacity, demonstrated by the increased number of school drop-outs to save family income as well as an expansion of migration in search of alternative sources of income. Most of the assessments noted that families living with HIV/AIDS (as given by proxy indicators) were twice as likely to remove a child from school compared to non-affected families.

Additional causes of vulnerability included reliance on poor infrastructure, lower purchasing power at the household level and subsidies that did not always reach the most vulnerable.

Cereal food aid requirements were provided based on the CFSAM. However, it was emphasized that CFSAM figures should be complemented with the VAC analysis in order to understand the complete picture of needs and responses.

It was emphasized that:

  • in order to address chronic vulnerability in the region, there must be an improvement in HIV/AIDS awareness, testing and treatment.
  • An urgent review of certain government policies such as poverty reduction strategies for the vulnerable population is needed.
  • Governments should put in place, or step up, productivity enhancing interventions, such as making agricultural inputs readily available, small scale irrigation, water management, conservation farming.
  • Governments need to develop flexible programmes that can move back and forth from relief to development activities in order to deal with frequent shocks in the region.
  • There is a need for more quantitative data on the impact of HIV/AIDS on all aspects of livelihood, including food production.
  • In some countries, increased vulnerability is a direct result of the cumulative stress of unfavorable climatic conditions over the past several years, and therefore, drought tolerant crops and other drought mitigation measures should be more strongly encouraged.
  • There is a need to enhance the VAs to include access to water and sanitation issues, as water plays a very significant role in communities with regards to health, agriculture and sanitation.
  • It is imperative that long-term solutions address gender issues and the role and status of women, especially they relate to their time, economic role in the household, and health and education issues.
SADC is in the planning stage of establishing a Food Reserve Facility for the region that would be able to absorb regional surpluses in good production years, and provide a reserve for food deficit periods.

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