11 Sep 2023

Zimbabwe acts in anticipation of an impending drought

The latest forecasts indicate a very strong likelihood of an El Niño event in 2023 in Zimbabwe, which is expected to result in a severe drought. Based on these forecasts, the country’s Early Action Protocol (EAP) for Drought has been activated. 

Through this activation, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies will release 366,878 Swiss francs (411,435 US dollars / 383,422 euros) from the Anticipatory Pillar of its Disaster Response Emergency Fund. With this financing, the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society will implement the first set of early actions outlined in the EAP. Starting in October 2023, these will help 21,000 people to cope with the worst impacts of the drought over the next 12 months. 

These actions will be carried out in five target wards in Binga District and include: 

  • early warning information to support at-risk communities when planning their own actions to mitigate the impacts of the drought; this information will be accurate, people-centred and user-friendly, and provided in languages understood by the target communities  
  • the distribution of drought-tolerant seeds to targeted households, which will boost their harvests and contribute to ensuring their food security 
  • livestock vaccinations which will improve the animals’ condition and therefore reduce their vulnerability to stresses caused by the coming drought conditions (e.g., increased susceptibility to bacterial and parasitic infections). 

"The decision to initiate anticipatory actions, in response to the forecast we have received, is a crucial step in our ongoing efforts to build resilient communities, particularly in the context of a changing climate," said Mr Elias Hwenga, the secretary general of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society. "By taking action before a disaster occurs, we are strategically positioning ourselves to mitigate the potential negative impacts effectively. This approach reflects our commitment to humanity and to disaster risk reduction, community preparedness and resilience building."

Triggers for Zimbabwe's EAP for Drought

Zimbabwe’s EAP for Drought has two triggers: 

  • a forecast of an El Niño event, with an impact level corresponding to a once-in-six-year event 
  • a forecast of IPC4 conditions in the FEWS NET food security forecast reports, in both March and June. 

Further details are provided in the EAP Notification report

Early actions: a two-stage process 

This activation is the first of two stages outlined in the EAP for Drought. The second set of actions will, if triggered, include:  

  • cash and voucher assistance for people to buy food and other basic necessities 
  • a school-feeding action to combat malnutrition and reduce the number of hunger-induced school dropouts, as well as other social problems that can be exacerbated by drought (e.g., early marriage, child labour).  

This staggered approach to early actions allows for longer lead times, which can address the different expected impacts as the drought manifests. 

This article was amended on 18 September 2023 to include the quote and update the photos.

Photos © Zimbabwe Red Cross Society