Rain- finally! A sigh of joy goes through the audience as the President of Madagascar Hery Rajaonarimampianina sets his foot on the little stage in Ambovombe, a small town in the South of Madagascar.
The President is here not for the rain but to witness the first payment of a new cash transfer program, financed by the World Bank and UNICEF, to respond to the wide-spread food insecurity and malnutrition caused by a two -year drought that has distressed large regions of Southern Africa, from Madagascar to Angola, from Ethiopia to South Africa.
Southern Africa has been hit by its worst drought in 35 years. Across the region, it is estimated that between June 2016 and March 2017, 32 million people are food insecure. The humanitarian impact extends beyond food security with reports of increased levels of malnutrition, difficulty in accessing water, higher school drop-out rates, increased incidence of communicable diseases and rural to urban migration.
Poor harvests and resulting cereal deficits have caused food prices to soar. Poverty is expected to rise, jeopardizing decades of hard-won developmental gains in the region. The countries where the impact of the drought is highest include some of the poorest countries in the world: Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.
In response to this emergency, the World Bank is using its Crisis Response Window (CRW) through the Banks’ Fund for the Poorest (IDA) to provide additional financing to a number of countries, including Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique to provide fast disbursements of cash transfers to the affected population. This is now possible thanks to the rise of social safety nets in Africa in recent years.