Botswana will not be part of the SADC member states who will immediately and, or urgently receive humanitarian assistance offered this week by the International Cooperation Partners (ICPs) mainly for two reasons.
It is said the assistance is focusing on countries that have been most affected by the effects of El- Nino, and perceived to be low income. Furthermore, Botswana did not request for such assistance from the ICPs. The shocking revelation was made by some of the ICP representatives whose countries and organisations responded positively to SADC chairperson and Botswana President, Ian Khama’s appeal when launching the Regional Humanitarian Appeal and mobilising funds for the regional Economic bloc on Tuesday. The appeal is a formal request by the economic regional bloc to the international community to provide assistance to affected States. During the ICPs respective responses on Tuesday, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa were not mentioned amongst the member states who will be assisted.
Botswana Guardian learnt that Botswana submitted to SADC at a later stage than other countries because she took her time to assess and acquire the facts before she could press the alarm.However, what is clear is that Botswana, just like many other member states, has long declared drought emergency. The Humanitarian Appeal brochure launched this week indicates that Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have declared drought emergencies. South Africa has declared drought emergency in all provinces except Gauteng while Mozambique has declared an institutional red alert. El Niño-related government preparedness and response plans have been developed or are under development by most countries.
Although it still falls far from the SADC target of USD 2.4 billion, this week Tuesday four ICPs namely, United States of America (USA), European Union, Britain and United Nations responded by offering pledges worth millions to help all countries save for Botswana, Namibia and South Africa because they are regarded as middle-income economies.
Presenting during the meeting, Ambassador Earl Miller said the USA government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is contributing $127 million as part of an integrated response to El Niño drought relief. With this announcement, the United States has provided nearly USD300 million in humanitarian assistance to the region and has also invested over USD 200 million in longer-term development interventions. These efforts will mitigate the drought’s impact and build resilience in Southern Africa through agricultural production, environment, health, livestock, trade, and water and sanitation programmes.
The USA government supports recognition of the current drought in the SADC region as a humanitarian crisis with significant negative consequences for food security, water access, health, and economic productivity outcomes. In addition to food assistance, the biggest priority will be livelihood support, including seed distributions and livestock recovery to accelerate economic recovery. The United States applauded President Ian Khama’s appeal on behalf of SADC nations for greater international support in the current drought crisis.
Speaking to Botswana Guardian Ambassador Earl Miller, USAID country representative Blake Chrystal, Head of Delegation of the European Union Ambassador Alexander Baum, UN Representative, UNOCHA El-Nino Coordinator, Southern Africa and RIASCO Chairperson, Timo Pakkala all revealed that Botswana is not getting assistance because ‘she did not submit the request’’.Blake Chrystal of USAID said they excluded Botswana because SADC‘s request for immediate urgent humanitarian appeal assistance is focused on countries that have been most affected by the effects of El- Nino.
“We also do a lot of longer term work in countries that are better often than neighbours, countries like Botswana, South Africa and Namibia, the need for emergency assistance aid food is not as great as it is in other countries. So we do a lot of work of what we call disaster risk mitigation and resilience. So that is the work in partnership with the governments of those countries to ensure that they are better placed to deal with the drought the next time it happens.”
Examples include the work the US government is doing on early warning for droughts so that the countries have a better idea it is coming. “We do a lot of work on conservation agriculture which is growing food with less water and crops that are more drought resistant. We have made significant effort in what we call seed harmonisation in SADC, which is to ensure that countries have access to safe drought resistant seeds they can plant. Those are some of the examples of how we vote on resilience and disaster risk mitigation in up and middle income countries.”
Chrystal said Botswana government has been very open about the investments they have made in ensuring that their people here are food secure, and they have reached out to development partners and asked for assistance going forward in disaster mitigation and resilience. “We will continue looking for opportunities to work with government here.” Timo Pakkala told Botswana Guardian that, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia have more national resources than the other countries. “As ICPs we are targeting the most vulnerable, most affected countries with least capacity to respond,” he said. According to him resources are quite limited and thus they needed to prioritise. On Botswana, Namibia and South Africa he said, “they believe they can manage themselves from their natural resources, which is an excellent thing.”
Ambassador Baum shared that the El- Niño story is already past. “The way I look at it is, we are looking at the next crisis, I am not sure anybody will be able to reopen the El- Niño case. That is my sense when I listened to my headquarters. For now, I cannot say yes or no, but looking at this late stage as we are in August, I will not raise any hope that there will be more money than the 60 million Euros offered. You have seen the FAO- SADC regional map indicating the needs.”
He said Botswana had signalled an understanding that it is more or less in control of the situation and that it can respond to the situation itself. “That is why there has been very little coming forward practically in terms of request for international support. If the government is confident that it can manage the situation before it would ask for assistance, I think it is good because we have some countries which always appeal for international help, if the country focuses on using its means before going for international help, it adds to its own credibility, because one day they may be a real issue that cannot be coped with by the country, and once such a country makes the appeal, then they will be taken seriously”, said Baum.
Worst drought in 35 years
The current El Niño is the worst in 35 years, following poor rainfall since October 2015. The severity of the drought conditions overwhelmed the disaster response capacity in most of the affected member states and a number of key socio- economic sectors has already been negatively affected. According to president Ian Khama the current drought has already resulted in widespread crop production failures and loss of thousands of livestock.
”In South Africa, the biggest grain producer in the region, it is estimated that the maize harvest resulted in approximately 7.16 million metric tonnes, about 4million tonnes less than average. While several countries have recorded over 50 percent drop in crop production”.
Khama said the poor rainfall performance and the high evaporation rates with prolonged heat waves that have persisted in the region since October 2015 have led to low water levels in major reservoirs in the region, compromising domestic and agricultural water supplies and hydro-electric power generation. He gave examples of Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and Zambia where the water levels in major dams and rivers were at the lowest. Ground water levels were also reported to be much lower than expected as some service providers such as hospitals and schools are unable to provide their services due to lack of water.
El-Niño impact on the health services has led to disruption of health services and compromised the case management of patients. Poor feeding resulting from lack of food will also further compromise people’s immune system and increase the risk of infection due to drinking water. Khama said affected member states have already re-allocated their limited resources to support vulnerable populations through drought relief and recovery programmes.The SADC Appeal is in support of ongoing planned efforts by SADC Member States in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The appeal covers all relevant sectors in an effort to enable a holistic approach to the drought, addressing immediate multi-sectoral humanitarian needs as well as referencing longer term developmental and resilience-building requirements