ROSA responded to four medium-scale emergencies in the region in 2011. The Regional Office supported Mozambique’s response to the refugee influx from the Horn of Africa crisis, and coordinated relief activities following the devastating floods in the northern region of Namibia. As political instability in Madagascar affected the Government’s ability to tackle a massive locust invasion, OCHA undertook its biggest regional intervention in 2011, addressing a crisis that affected 2.5 million people.
Heavy rains in Lesotho from December 2010 to February 2011 caused extensive damage to the agricultural sector. The Post-Disaster Needs Assessment subsequently conducted indicated a developing food security crisis due to the losses, particularly of crops such as sorghum, maize and beans. In June 2011, the Lesotho Vulnerability Assessment Committee estimated that 514,000 poor and very poor people (102,600 households) were food insecure and required humanitarian assistance during the 2011/2012 consumption year. ROSA responded by facilitating a CERF request and providing technical support to the RC and the UNCT to coordinate the response.
In 2011, ROSA maintained a strong focus on a regional approach to preparedness and emergency response. It encouraged governments and other actors to work towards tighter regional response strategies and filling gaps in response preparedness.
ROSA led an SADC regional consultation workshop in October. National and regional DRR managers examined the implications of the 2011/2012 seasonal rainfall forecast and potential disaster risks, and decided on measures to put in place. The workshop provided an opportunity for ISDR to launch the Southern Africa regional DRR platform, which will promote greater coherence in DRR coordination at the regional and sub-regional levels.
ROSA’s efforts to support sub-regional planning for increased disaster preparedness were evident in communities along the Zambezi river basin. The Regional Office produced an atlas of preparedness activities based on the five priorities of the Hyogo Framework for Action. The atlas helps identify DRR shortcomings in the basin and enables partners to fill the gaps. Working with OCHA, IFRC will continue efforts to implement DRR projects at the community level. However, the current DRR activity in the SADC region requires stronger funding from the international community. Without this, disaster management institutions will be unable to perform their duties fully.
ROSA staff members were called on for surge interventions outside the region. They deployed to Somalia and Kenya offices for the Horn of Africa crisis, and to the Namibia flood response. The extensive surge interventions, totalling 270 surge days, affected activities including the office’s conduct of comprehensive risk analysis in 11 countries. This endeavour will be rolled out in 2012.
ROSA provided technical support to UNCTs and RCs in several key areas. These included resource mobilization through CERF and Flash Appeals, rapid assessments and information management. ROSA helped UNCTs and RCs coordinate their preparedness and response actions, and monitored cross-border population movements. These included the movement of Zimbabweans crossing into South Africa, which raised serious protection issues. There was concern about the South African authorities’ handling of the incoming population, including the manner in which the deportations of Zimbabweans lacking proper asylum documentation were carried out. ROSA also advocated stronger protection of civilians following the expulsions of Congolese nationals from Angola and Angolans from DRC in recent years, and the allegations of human rights abuses by authorities in both countries.
Longstanding humanitarian problems will require a strong response in 2012. The Southern African region remains prone to recurrent natural disasters. The prevalence of floods and droughts, along with epidemics of diseases such as cholera, malaria and measles, has helped create a high dependency on international aid. Local coping mechanisms in many parts of the region have become severely overstretched, while social security support is often limited and there is little safety net for the most disadvantaged. The continuing impact of HIV and AIDS, the unstable political situations in some countries in the region, and the unsustainable use of natural resources have all contributed to serious food security problems and chronic malnutrition rates.
Despite significant achievements in 2011, OCHA still needs to reinforce its work on disaster response and preparedness. This can hopefully be done through the introduction of the Minimum Preparedness Actions (MPPs), which were developed in 2011 and will come into effect in 2012. A comprehensive risk analysis for better preparedness planning, risk prevention and mitigation in the region will be undertaken.
In terms of overall advocacy, OCHA still needs to do more as a catalyst and interlocutor on humanitarian issues, driving the coordination of preparedness and humanitarian response. OCHA’s role is critical given the limited humanitarian capacity in a regional UN system where development rather than humanitarian concerns tend to dominate.