For much of the past decade, children and women in Eastern and Southern Africa have endured conflicts, collapsing governments, droughts, floods, food insecurity and disease. 2010 was no exception.
In Eastern Africa, an estimated 17.4 million people were food-insecure despite improvement in food security following favourable long rains, particularly in Ethiopia and Sudan. Adverse weather patterns caused severe flooding and landslides in early 2010; 48,000 people in Uganda and more than 55,000 people in Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda and Zambia were temporarily displaced. Flooding and poor sanitation among displaced people led to outbreaks of cholera, acute watery diarrhoea and measles.
In Southern Somalia, the on-going armed conflict threatened the delivery of essential services and other forms of assistance to women and children. In Madagascar and Zimbabwe, political instability, deteriorating physical infrastructure and the public sector’s inability to deliver basic social services all contributed to the further decline in the overall health and well-being of its people, particularly children.
Economic growth across the region was hindered due to the wider global recession and food shortages that further challenged the most vulnerable members of society.
Though the region is not a major contributor to climate change, it is a part of the world that is most vulnerable to its effects. According to the International Panel on Climate Change, areas of Southern Africa are at high risk to climate variability. Given predictions of a global temperature rise of several degrees Celsius, the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as floods, cyclones and drought is expected to increase. Such erratic climatic conditions destroy crucial infrastructure and alter local ecosystems, resulting in increased health risks, particularly water- and vector-borne diseases.
Around 8.8 million children remain out of school in the region, many of them due to chronic emergency situations induced by on-going conflict, socio-political upheaval and natural disasters. Close to 80 percent of the out-of-school children live in only five countries - Ethiopia, Kenya, Angola, Somalia, and Mozambique.
Amidst the high vulnerability to disasters faced by virtually all countries in the region, the capacity to develop robust preparedness and response capacities is (with the exception of South Africa) highly limited.