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 and epidemics are the most frequent disaster risks.
Tropical cyclones and the large amount of rain they bring are recurrent hazards that hit south-western Indian Ocean countries annually, especially Madagascar and Mozambique. A large portion of the floods in mainland Southern Africa are caused by the Zambezi River, which is the longest and largest river in Southern Africa. Its basin is shared by eight countries: Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
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 the Zambezi River, heavy rainfall often causes localized flooding throughout the region. During the 2011 rainfall season, one of the most affected regions was northern Namibia, which is a region that historically does not experience severe flooding. 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. This all severely impedes overall socioeconomic development in affected countries. An estimated 553,773 people were affected by floods and storms across the region (a conservative estimate), while at least 160 people died. These figures support the idea that the 2011/12 season was relatively mild, but also underlines the fact that Governments, supported by United Nations Humanitarian Country Teams (HCTs), are more prepared and respond quicker than five years ago.
Waterborne 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. Cholera is associated with rain, but it is also very much a development issue as the poor water-and-sanitation infrastructure that characterizes much of Southern Africa often provides the 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. Thirty-five per cent of all new HIV/AIDS infections and 38 per cent of all AIDS deaths globally occur in nine Southern Africa countries. In South Africa, the number of AIDS orphans quadrupled between 2000 and 2007. In Madagascar, it went up by almost 600 per cent during the same period.
Southern Africa has also experienced three severe droughts in the past 10 years, where typically only one drought would occur every 10 years. The region is experiencing one of the worst food-insecurity situations in years. The 2011/2012 rainfall season was not favourable to crop production, due to the late onset of rains and 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 5.5 million people in eight countries. Additionally, in Madagascar, which is currently suspended from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) following a coup in 2009, an estimated 517,000 people face severe food insecurity.
In the Great Lakes and Horn of Africa regions, hundreds of thousands of people are internally displaced or refugees. Conflict in these regions, as well as pressure on livelihoods throughout eastern and southern Africa, force an estimated 2 million non-nationals from within Southern Africa, as well the Horn and Great Lakes regions, to migrate to and within Southern Africa each year. They burden communities already under severe strain due to unemployment and poor social-service provision. In 2008, South Africa was the main destination worldwide for new asylum seekers, followed by the USA. The sheer scale of this migration and the acute vulnerabilities associated with it are a growing humanitarian concern, particularly in areas where they have resulted in conflict and significant internal and cross-border displacement.
In response to these challenges, the OCHA Regional Office for Southern Africa (ROSA) assists UN Resident Coordinators/Humanitarian Coordinators (RC/HCs), UN Disaster Management Teams, Governments and international institutions in strengthening disaster management and response capacities.
- Emergency response
- Disaster preparedness and risk reduction
- Regional information management activities
- International funding mechanisms (CERF, Flash Appeals and CAP)
- Regional advocacy
- Coordination support (surge capacity)
Support to regional networks
11 Naivasha Road
Johannesburg, South Africa
Telephone: +27 11 517 0000