A long-term emergency
Several countries in southern Africa now see large numbers of their population, many dependent on rain-fed farming, barely subsisting at poverty levels in years without shocks, and are highly vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather, the economy and government policy. Multiple stressors can include any changes that manifest as shocks, such as floods, job losses and death, or gradual changes, such as land degradation and deterioration of health care systems. This opinion piece explores two key potentially harmful implications for households’ and, in particular, children’s future security: firstly, the adoption of “erosive” coping strategies to deal with current needs, and secondly, the inability to cater for the future. Recommendations suggest that by increasing the resilience and range of options that families have, through services and safety nets, one can optimize the positive outcomes for children. Furthermore, policies need to focus more on promoting children’s physical and psychological well-being, and the capacity and stability of their families. They need to address both their external vulnerability, by alleviating stressors threatening households, as well as their internal vulnerability, by strengthening their resilience or ability to cope. Decisive, well-informed and holistic interventions should aim to break the potential negative cycle that threatens the stable future well-being of southern Africa’s children.