Wrapping up a visit to southern Africa, a senior United Nations humanitarian official Friday called on countries and partners in the region to strengthen their efforts to work together to promote disaster preparedness and tackle food insecurity.
"Southern Africa is facing a silent food insecurity emergency," said the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Catherine Bragg, at the end of a five-day visit to Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
"Regional food production has been weakened by recurrent disasters," she added. "In Lesotho, about a third of the population does not have enough food to eat or sell.
In Zimbabwe, 1.6 million people are expected to be food insecure and many families are selling their own livestock to cope with this dire situation."
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in which Bragg serves, food insecurity continues to be a chronic problem in southern Africa, particularly in Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
Across the region, more than 5.5 million people in eight countries - a 40 per cent increase from 2011 - face food shortages due to the impact of recurrent natural disasters like droughts and floods, and rising food prices.
In Zimbabwe, Bragg met with Government officials to discuss ways to further strengthen the resilience of affected communities. With the humanitarian community there, she also reviewed increased efforts to help move the country into recovery.
Earlier in the week, the humanitarian official met in Botswana with representatives from the Southern African Development Community, to discuss ways to further strengthen its partnership with the United Nations, including in disaster preparedness and response.
A civilian stand-by surge mechanism for disaster response is expected to soon become operational, OCHA noted in a news release.
In South Africa, Bragg met representatives from the country's Ministry of International Relations and Cooperation and the South African Development Partnership Agency to discuss closer partnership between OCHA and the Government.
"South Africa has been increasingly active in supporting regional and international humanitarian responses. It has provided significant financial support to the CERF, and for humanitarian responses to the earthquake in Haiti and the Sahel crisis," said Bragg.
Launched in 2006 and managed by OCHA, CERF - or the UN Central Emergency Response Fund - enables the fast delivery of life-saving assistance to people affected by natural disasters and other crises worldwide.
It is funded by voluntary contributions from Member States, non-governmental organizations, regional governments, the private sector and individual
Since 2006, nearly a third of the $2.6 billion allocated from the Fund has gone to neglected crises in more than 40 countries.