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Southern Africa Drought Crisis (2024): El Nino, Food Insecurity, Water Shortages

GS-2 Mains : 

El Nino and Drought:

  • February 2024: Driest month in decades for Zambia, Zimbabwe, parts of Botswana & Angola.
  • El Nino identified as the main driver of the drought.
  • Such droughts predicted to occur every 10 years, but El Nino doubles the risk of severity.
  • Increased evaporation due to climate change worsens drought impact.

Impact on Agriculture and Food Security:

  • Devastating impact on crops during crucial growing season.
  • Increased risk of severe food insecurity in affected countries.
  • Zimbabwe: Extreme water stress for crops due to dry February.
  • Famine Early Warning Systems Network predicts above-normal grain imports.
  • World Food Programme may struggle to assist due to worsening food insecurity.
  • Malawi: El Nino-induced drought causes sharp decline in crop production and maize price hike.

Water Crisis and Diseases:

  • Dramatic water shortages in Zambia and Zimbabwe due to underdeveloped water infrastructure.
  • Outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases linked to drought and limited water access.
  • January-March 2024: Zambia reports 19,319 cholera cases and 621 deaths (WHO).

Lake Kariba Water Levels:

  • Drastic drop in water levels due to low rainfall.
  • April 2024: Lake Kariba at 13.8% capacity (23.8% in 2023).
  • Forecasts suggest worsening conditions with warmer-than-average months.


  • Increase resilience to future droughts, likely to become more frequent.
  • Implement tailored interventions for vulnerable groups: small-scale farmers, wildlife, etc.
  • Maintain strong traditional land governance systems for sustainable land management.
  • Strengthen early warning systems, proactive measures, and disaster response activities.


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