Contrary to perceptions that southern Africa has a homogeneous and ‘low-risk’ profile, research results indicate a region exposed to a range of environmental and social pressures. Excluding the protracted humanitarian situations in Angola and Zimbabwe, 47 international humanitarian emergencies were identified between 2000 and 2012. The research shows that 37 of these were associated with an identifiable environmental shock/stressor, while seven were linked to socio-political triggers and three to epidemics. Environmental emergencies led to 26 flood-related appeals, each of which reportedly assisted more than 500,000 people. Many of these were due to identifiable weather systems, such as Cyclone Eline in 2000 or Cyclone Favio in 2007.
A recurrent finding of this study is the high frequency of transboundary emergencies (emergencies that affect more than one administrative jurisdiction). The results suggest that current data-gathering systems, however, consistently under-estimate the occurrence and effects of transboundary processes, as well as their spatial extent. This is partly due to systematic biases that favour national reporting and is further constrained by non-reporting requirements for countries that do not seek international assistance. Transboundary risks apply to all scales. For instance, with increasing global and continental connectivity, and the region’s growing integration, global economic shocks are likely to transfer throughout the region. The effects of global fuel and food price volatility and economic recession, for example, were experienced by most southern African countries between 2007 and 2009 and resulted in widespread effects and knock-on consequences.
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