About OCHA Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA)

Southern Africa is characterized by natural disasters and epidemics of an increasing intensity, frequency and magnitude, and which are often combined with socioeconomic shocks. Tropical cyclones, floods/droughts and epidemics are the most frequent hazards.

Tropical cyclones and the heavy rains they bring are recurrent hazards that hit South-Western Indian Ocean countries annually, especially Madagascar and Mozambique. A large portion of floods in mainland Southern Africa are caused by the Zambezi River, which is the longest and largest river in the region. Its basin is shared by eight countries: Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The Zambezi Basin is an area for humanitarian emergencies on a yearly basis during the flood season. There are two large reservoirs in the Basin: the Kariba dam (between Zambia and Zimbabwe) and the Cahora Bassa dam (in Mozambique). Water releases from these reservoirs often exacerbate flooding in downstream countries, especially when heavy rainfall or tropical cyclones coincide with above-normal inflows to these reservoirs. Added to the flooding of Zambezi River, heavy rainfall often causes localized flooding throughout the region. Every year, floods in Southern Africa claim lives, displace communities and affect hundreds of thousands of people, destroy crops and livestock, and cause serious economic losses. These severely impede overall socioeconomic development in affected countries.

During the rainy 2012/2013 season alone, an estimated 518,000 people were affected by floods and storms across the region, while at least 191 people died. The most affected country was Mozambique which experienced the worst floods in years, with 250,000 people affected directly and 117 people dead. These figures support the idea that the 2012/13 season was relatively mild, but also underlines the fact that Governments, supported by Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs), are gradually more prepared and respond quicker than they did six years earlier.

Water-borne diseases often spike during the rainfall season. Cholera is of particular concern and remains a serious health threat to the region. Over the past few years, cholera has become endemic in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. However, during the past year, cholera particularly affected Angola and Namibia, but spared Malawi – an unusual occurrence. Cholera is associated with rains but it is also very much a development issue as the poor water-and-sanitation infrastructure that characterizes much of Southern Africa often provides an ideal breeding ground for cholera and similar diseases. The spread of cholera is also increased by the considerable amount of migration and refugees crossing state borders.

The impact of natural disasters has been complicated by high levels of HIV/AIDS prevalence. Southern Africa remains the epicentre of the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. In 2012, thirty-five per cent of all new HIV/AIDS infections and 38 per cent of all AIDS deaths globally occurred in nine Southern Africa countries. Currently, UNAIDS is compiling data for 2013. As HIV/AIDS has been a major priority for humanitarian actors and Southern African Governments over the past few years, it is very possible that a downwards trend in new HIV/AIDS infections and deaths for the past year in the region will emerge.

Southern Africa also has experienced three severe droughts in the past 10 years, where typically only one drought would occur every 10 years. The most severe drought conditions took place in the 2002, 2005 and 2008. The 2012/2013 rainfall season was not favourable to crop production, due to widespread torrential rains early on followed by prolonged dry spells over many parts of the region. This has partly led to an increase in the estimated number of food-insecure people in the region to over 12.4 million people in 11 countries. Additionally, in Madagascar, which was suspended from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) following a coup in 2009 and re-instated following presidential elections held in December 2013, an estimated 3.9 million people are at risk of severe food insecurity.

In response to these challenges, the OCHA Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) assists UN Resident Coordinators (RCs), UN Disaster Management Teams, Governments and international institutions in strengthening disaster preparedness and response capacities.

OCHA-ROSA assistance includes:

1.         Coordination support (surge capacity) in emergency response

2.         Disaster response preparedness

3.         Regional information management activities

4.         International funding mechanisms (CERF, Flash Appeals and CAP)

5.         Regional advocacy

6.         Support to regional networks

7.         Partnership


Merafe House
11 Naivasha Road
Sunninghill, 2157
Johannesburg, South Africa
Telephone: +27 11 517 0000
E-mail: ocharosa@un.org