Southern African countries launch 5.5-bln-USD appeal for El Nino crisis

LUANDA, May 20 (Xinhua) -- The Southern African Development Community (SADC) expressed concern on Monday about the humanitarian situation in member countries due to El Nino-induced droughts and floods, which have affected more than 61 million people in the region.

Following an extraordinary virtual summit of heads of state and government, SADC countries launched a humanitarian appeal to raise at least 5.5 billion U.S. dollars to mobilize domestic and external resources to aid affected member states.

The appeal, initiated by Angolan President Joao Lourenco, who is also the current rotating president of the SADC, urged the international community, the private sector, individuals and SADC member states with the capacity to assist others to support the affected populations.

During his opening speech at the summit, Lourenco said the SADC is "going through a humanitarian crisis" due to drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon during the rainy season of 2023-2024. Seasonal rainfall in the southern and central regions of the area has been far below average. The central and southeast parts of the region experienced extremely dry and hot conditions for over 50 consecutive days. Areas plagued by severe droughts saw the lowest rainfall since 1981.

"The below-average seasonal rainfall led to water deficits, causing poor harvests and reduced growth of vegetation necessary for livestock and wildlife. Water and pasture scarcity have also fueled conflicts between humans and wildlife, resulting in the loss of human lives. Episodes of unsafe water sources have increased the risks and cases of waterborne disease outbreaks such as cholera, which is prevalent in several countries in the SADC region," he said.

Lourenco also noted that tropical cyclones and above-average precipitation have caused flash floods and landslides in member states such as Madagascar, Malawi and Tanzania.

The virtual SADC summit was attended by 15 countries, including six heads of state. The SADC, headquartered in Botswana, is a regional economic community comprising 16 member states.

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