SA drought strategies under the spotlight

Unicef wants to see the country’s plans to mitigate the effects of drought in other African countries.

FILE: More than 24 million children in southern and eastern Africa are facing the threat of food insecurity. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Unicef says it wants to see the support structures South Africa has implemented to help mitigate the effects of a crippling drought emulated in other affected African countries.

The organisation announced yesterday that the current El Nino climate cycle has left 1 million children in southern and eastern Africa in need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition.

Unicef's Megan Gilgan says South Africa has been able to protect many households from bearing the full brunt of the country's worst drought in decades, through its social support structures.

"They have child grants and other safety nets."

She says Unicef wants to see more countries implementing strategies to help shield those who are most vulnerable during periods of drought.

"How do we have new systems that can absorb these types of shocks and keep people in that minimum level of the safety net?"

WATCH: SA economy suffers as drought continues

The organisation says while the effects of this El Nino cycle had been predicted far in advance, the successful implementation of coping mechanisms is still a challenge faced by some African countries.

Unicef's Malawi representative Mahimbo Mdoe says parents in the southern African country are working twice as hard to find ways to feed their children.

He says transactional sex and other risky behaviours aren't uncommon as people desperately find means to cope with soaring food prices.

"We're seeing desperate behaviours, particularly from girls and children and we're seeing transactional sex starting to happen for people to be able to get food. We are starting to see that children are dropping out of schools."

More than 24 million children in southern and eastern Africa are facing the threat of food insecurity caused by the worst drought in over two decades.

Unicef says it needs $155 million to adequately assist all households affected by the dry spell.