More than nine million people are currently facing severe food shortages after the worst drought Southern Africa has seen in 35 years. This number is expected to increase to 45 million over the next few months.

Late rains, the aftermath of two major cyclones, drought and flooding are putting millions of lives at risk, causing a devastating food and climate crisis.

Covid-19 update

So far the Coronavirus has not had a significant impact on Southern Africa, but unfortunately it is likely to reach the affected countries in the near future, now that the World Health Organisation has confirmed that the situation is a pandemic.

The impact of the virus is likely to be more severe on people who are already weakened by poor nutrition and by the additional vulnerabilities arising from the climate crisis. Health systems in these countries may not be well-equipped to cope.

The global situation therefore heightens the urgency of supporting people affected by the food crisis, as well as engaging in the global response.

In addition, the Coronavirus is likely to indirectly impact the response to the food crisis as media coverage and public awareness are occupied with news of the virus and financial markets are disrupted.

What ActionAid is doing

ActionAid and our local partners are on the ground in the affected areas of Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

We're distributing life-saving items like food and water purification tablets, plus critical items for longer term health, such as safe sanitary products and hygiene kits.

We are also supporting safe spaces for women and girls.

But the situation is worsening rapidly, and we urgently need to reach more people.

Donate now


How your donation makes a difference

Your gift to the Southern Africa food crisis appeal can help people in urgent need

Or choose your own amount to give


The food crisis: what’s happening in Southern Africa

In the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, countries in Southern Africa are now facing urgent shortages of food. 


In Malawi, 1.9 million people are food insecure. A combination of high prices, inflation, low rainfall and crop infestations are putting many more people at risk.1 

The rate of stunting - a sign of chronic malnutrition - is at 37%.2 


In Mozambique alone, 600 people were killed by Cyclone Idai in 2019.

There were donations of seeds as part of the recovery effort, but a devastating plague of armyworms struck the crops in the autumn. This again destroyed much of the harvest. 

2.5 million people are now in urgent need of assistance, including 67,500 children requiring treatment for malnutrition.


More than 2.4 million people are affected in Zambia alone, with at least 430,000 people experiencing severe food insecurity (described as just one level below famine).

This is largely due to a huge decline in maize production, causing prices to soar. Maize prices reached an all-time high last November - 90% higher than in 2018.

There are reports of people collecting wild fruits - which are potentially dangerous - in order to survive.


In Zimbabwe, once a prime agricultural region, crops have also been failing: 7.7 million people are now suffering from severe food shortages.

Localised flooding has been responsible for washing away much of the crops planted by farmers and households. 

Climate change and women’s rights 

Back-to-back cyclones, flooding and record-breaking drought have wreaked havoc on harvests in Southern Africa - a region dependent on rain-fed, smallholder agriculture - and persistent climate change-induced disasters are causing malnutrition levels to soar1.

At ActionAid we know that in every emergency, women and girls suffer disproportionately.

That's why we seek to put local women in charge, advising what their communities need, and overseeing the distribution of aid to the most vulnerable, to ensure fairness and transparency. They ensure that people get the life-saving aid that is their right.

  • 1. a. b.
  • 2.

Failing crops in Zimbabwe

Rumbudzai, 18, is from Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe. Her baby daughter Charmaine is almost two years old.

Rumbudzai told us she and Charmaine are able to eat only once a day because the increasingly poor rainfall pattern in Zimbabwe means their crops keep failing.

"The crops we are planting are not getting to maturity... Now the rains also come in December, we had planted, and a dry spell came, and they wilted," she said.  

When Cyclone Idai rains came the crops had wilted already and we did not harvest anything.

ActionAid and our local partners have distributed food aid to 49,000 people in Manicaland Province, including Rumbudzai and Charmaine, but we need to reach many more.

Donate now

Southern Africa food crisis: Rumbudzai is facing food insecurity due to failing crops

Cynthia Matonhodze/ActionAid

About ActionAid

ActionAid is an international charity that works with women and girls living in poverty.

Our dedicated local staff are changing the world with women and girls. We are ending violence and fighting poverty so that all women, everywhere, can create the future they want.

We operate in rural and urban communities across Asia, Africa and Latin America.

We're committed to ending the cycle of violence in communities around the world, enabling women's economic empowerment, and supporting women's and girls' rights during humanitarian crises.

Where your money goes

90% of your donation, after fundraising costs, will go to support the Southern Africa food crisis. The remaining 10% will be retained for ActionAid’s Emergency Action Fund which will only be used for ensuring we are prepared and able to respond quickly and more effectively to future emergencies and crises. If the total amount raised for this appeal exceeds the funds needed for the response, ActionAid will transfer the remaining balance to the Emergency Action Fund. All Gift Aid claimed on donations will fund ActionAid’s work across the world, wherever the need is greatest.


Page updated 18 November 2020