About 36% of the natural disasters that have occurred in Africa in the past four decades were in Southern Africa and they carried an estimated cumulative economic loss of R640-billion.
Alize le Roux, a senior researcher for African Futures and Innovation at the Institute of Security Studies (ISS), revealed this in a presentation on Tuesday during a virtual discussion titled: "What is Southern Africa's plan for the climate crisis?"
In her presentation, she also said there were 606 water-related disasters in the same period that led to loss of life, displacement, and the destruction of infrastructure and economic activities.
"In these four decades, SADC (the Southern African Development Community) has seen about 606 what we call hydro-metrological disasters. These are events where people have lost their lives, [have been] displaced, or there has been significant infrastructure damage," she said.
In recent times, Cyclone Idai of 2019 was recorded as one of the worst tropical cyclones to affect Africa and the Southern hemisphere. It caused a humanitarian crisis that stretched from Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, leaving 1 300 people dead and many more missing, and directly affecting three-million people.
Painting a bigger picture of disasters since 1980, Le Roux said "about 170-million people have been directly affected in the past four decades" and about 2.7-million people have been left homeless.
"We are expecting the damages would have exceeded $40-billion by now," Le Roux said.
She also said water was the "Achilles' heel" of Southern Africa.
"Ninety percent of people who've been affected in SADC, requiring urgent assistance is because of either too much or too little water. Three hundred and fourteen flooding events (since 1980) and around 102 droughts have struck the area," she said.
According to ReliefWeb, a humanitarian aid monitoring institution, at least 21 people were killed in Mozambique last year, and an estimated 125 000 others were affected by the impact of storms through flooding.
"The fact that Mozambique shares nine international river basins with South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia contributes toward their flooding incidents," she said.
Cyclones will continue to be a problem for Southern Africa as they become more in frequency and severity.
"What climate change does to these spectra is that it increases the footprint of these natural hazards but it also increases the frequency and it also increases the magnitude and severity of these hazards," she said.
Since cyclones feed on hot air, and temperatures are on the rise due to global warming, there are dangers of bigger destruction to infrastructure, loss of life and economic activity in the region.