Editor's note: This article was originally published on April 6, and has been updated to include information about South Africa's recent extreme flooding.

Southern Africa is not prepared for the climate crisis that is already hitting it hard, and the cracks have become ever more visible through the first months of 2022. 

South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province has experienced intense flooding — which started on April 8 — that has washed away thousands of homes and killed hundreds of people. This comes after the country’s neighbours, Mozambique, Malawi, and Madagascar had been hit with  not one, not two, not three, but four tropical storms back-to-back. 

Within a very short three month period from January to March 2022, Mozambique and surrounding countries on the Indian Ocean coast, have seen tropical storms Ana and Batsirai, and Cyclones Emnati and Gombe whip their way through the nations, leaving significant destruction in their wake. 

In South Africa the impact of the intense flooding is still being felt, with hundreds of people still missing in the chaos, and heavy rains continuing across the east coast province. In Mozambique, Malawi, and Madagascar, hundreds of lives have been lost to the collective natural disasters, homes and infrastructure have been destroyed, and thousands of citizens have been forced to seek refuge with nowhere else to go. 

The impact of the natural disasters is a reflection of how, even though Africa contributes the least to the climate crisis, it is already unfairly being dealt its biggest blows. 

4 Things to Know About Southern Africa’s Environmental Crisis: 

  1. Four powerful storms hit Mozambique, Malawi, and Madagascar back-to-back over three months at the beginning of 2022. 
  2. Heavy rains resulted in intense flooding in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, killing over 400 people.
  3. Mozambique had not fully recovered from 2019’s tropical Cyclones Idai and Kenneth when the storms hit. 
  4. The last cyclone, Gombe, impacted the lives of at least 736,000 people in Mozambique alone. 

What Impact Is This Having on People’s Lives?

The damaging weather has uprooted citizens from their homes, forcing them to flee their livelihoods and seek refuge elsewhere. The storms have impacted access to food, health care, and education for people in affected areas.

In South Africa, rescue missions to find people impacted by the floods are ongoing, and as many as 448 people have been confirmed dead. Officials predict that damage to infrastructure will cost the province an estimated R757 million (over $500 million), with roads, schools, health facilities, and businesses having been impacted by the extreme weather.

This is not the first time that the KwaZulu-Natal region has experienced disastrous flooding. In 2017 the same region was hit with flooding that washed away roughly 1,000 homes, and then again in 2019, intense flooding caused landslides that displaced hundreds of people.

In the case of Mozambique and its neighbouring countries in the south-east region of Africa, they had not fully recovered from a dangerous storm season that hit in 2019, when Cyclones Idai and Kenneth ravaged the nations. 

While those storms hit Mozambique the hardest, the impact was felt across countries in the region, resulting in the deaths of over 1,000 people collectively, as well as the destruction of thousands of homes, businesses, and important infrastructure and facilities. 

Mozambique is seemingly in a cycle of experiencing these damaging storms year after year, as not long after Idai and Kenneth, the country was hit by Cyclone Eloise in 2021, impacting at least 176,000 people and increasing climate migration and the need for humanitarian aid on the ground.

In the case of Madagascar, the World Food Programme had already warned just last year that southern Madagascar was on the brink of experiencing the world’s first ever climate change-related famine. While aid workers on the ground pointed out that there are many factors that contribute to this potential status — including the underdevelopment of certain regions — climate change is mostly to blame having impacted the predictability of the rainy seasons, and strengthened storms to be damaging to food sources. 

This has undoubtedly increased the scale of need in the region — with the last storm, Gombe, having passed towards the end of March, Mozambique, Madagascar, and Malawi are now facing the challenge of recovering. However as the climate crisis worsens, affected Southern African countries will barely be able to get on their feet again before another natural disaster hits. 

The situation across southern Africa is also in need of funding. The global need for humanitarian aid has massively increased due to the pandemic, climate change, as well as ongoing conflicts. Meaning that resources to support all citizens in need across the African continent are scarce. Humanitarian aid organisations need funding support to be able to tend to the needs of all people in crisis, such as those in southern Africa. 

Although the United Nations (UN), USAID, the European Commission, and other agencies, have scaled up their support for Mozambique, Madagascar, and Malawi following Cyclone Gombe, experts say it will not be enough to sustain a full recovery. Citizens and the countries as a whole are in need of sustainable humanitarian support. Even before the storms, two of the three nations were areas of concern for the UN, with Mozambique and Madagascar being highlighted as regions whose humanitarian crises require significant funding support for 2022. 

How Does This Relate to the Mission to End Extreme Poverty? 

Southern African countries have been experiencing the worst of climate change, either being hit by dangerous storms, or experiencing catastrophic droughts that impact food security. This is a direct wake up call for nations to work to achieve the UN’s Global Goal 13, which calls for immediate action on the climate crisis. 

With access to food limited for those impacted by natural disaster and unpredictable weather affecting agriculture in some regions, climate change’s impact on southern Africa is pushing back hard at efforts to achieve the UN’s Global Goal 2 for the end to hunger. 

As serious natural disasters damage infrastructure and facilities, they also affect access to education which falls under Global Goal 4, access to quality health care under Global Goal 3, as well as Goal 8 for decent work and economic growth, as affected businesses are forced to shut down or start from the ground up. 

Take Action with Global Citizen

You can take action with us by learning more about how the climate crisis is affecting the African continent as a whole. Sign up to be a Global Citizen, either on our website or by downloading the Global Citizen app, and take this quiz action to understand more about the situation. 

Many relief organisations are on the ground in the KwaZulu-Natal region for humanitarian assistance in the wake of the floods. You can support GlobalGiving's South Africa Flood Relief Fund — which helps vetted partner organisations to provide food, water, and emergency medical supplies to people and displaced families — by donating here.

You can also learn about other meaningful ways to help here.

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