Southern African countries declare "regional disaster" as new report warns of increase in cases of sexual violence

World Vision UK has today called for urgent funds to help support countries in Southern Africa as millions face food shortages due to a massive El Niño-induced drought. 

This morning, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is expected to declare a “regional drought state of disaster” and appeal for humanitarian aid to save more than 23 million people from imminent starvation. According to an official statement, SADC chairman and Botswana President, Seretse Khama Ian Khama, is expected to appeal for global humanitarian and drought relief aid worth over £2.2 billion, “to cover urgent needs and strengthen social safety nets.”

The announcement follows a report by three leading humanitarian agencies that revealed an increase in sexual violence relating to food and water, impacting girls under 14 years old across the Southern Africa region as a result of the drought. Findings by a Child Protection Rapid Assessment (or CPRA consortium comprising of World Vision, Unicef and Plan International) found that El Niño was severely impacting the lives of children and their futures. 

Tracy Shields, World Vision UK’s Senior Child Rights Programme Adviser, and one of the report’s authors, said: “We are calling for more funding to help alleviate the crisis across the Southern Africa region which now goes beyond the need for food and water. The region has suffered the brunt of the worst of El Niño’s treatments that has seen long droughts, scorching temperatures, water shortages and flooding. 

“Our report worryingly reveals that 41.9% of respondents agree that there is an increased sexual exploitation relating to food and water, impacting girls under the age of 14 years across the region. Close to half of the respondent agree that sexual exploitation is on the rise especially in homes and on the way to school. Its clear that sexual violence driven by the impact of El Niño is a major issue, this is why it's important for communities and governments in Southern Africa, to design and implement awareness campaigns that address the risk factors involved."

To support the World Vision El Niño appeal, please click here.

Although the drought directly affected the lives and livelihoods of more than 40 million people across the region, SADC says Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe are the most affected countries which need immediate food aid.

A statement by regional body comprising of 15 southern African states, reads: "The appeal will be a formal request to the international community to provide assistance to affected member states. Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have already declared national drought emergencies. South Africa has declared a drought emergency in eight of the country’s nine provinces, while Mozambique has declared a 90-day institutional red alert for some southern and central areas.

“For SADC, the current El Niño-induced drought is the worst in 35 years, following the failure of two consecutive rainy seasons. The severe drought conditions have already taken its toll on lives and livelihoods and the situation could deteriorate further if urgent assistance is not provided," the statement said.

For more information, pictures, case studies and interviews, please contact: 

Henry Makiwa | Media Manager | World Vision UK | E-mail: | Skype: Soshangana | Twitter: @makiwahenry


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