US Embassy in South Africa issues alert to stock up on food and water

The United States government has warned its citizens in South Africa to stockpile three days’ worth of supplies, including non-perishable food, 3 litres of drinking water per day, and medicine and first aid supplies.

It also says it expects load-shedding to continue beyond 2023.

The US embassy issued the security alert shortly after South Africa declared a national state of disaster over its energy crisis.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that his administration had declared the disaster on 9 February. The US government’s alert was on 15 February.

“The government of South Africa has declared a ‘State of Disaster’ in response to ongoing power shortages,” the embassy stated.

“The country’s energy crisis includes sustained load-shedding (controlled rolling blackouts), at varying intervals and is expected to extend beyond 2023.”

It explained that load-shedding results in localised power outages of up to six hours or more per day throughout the country.

“These planned electricity outages negatively affect private residences, businesses, municipal lighting, traffic lights, and hotels,” the embassy said.

“Rolling blackouts can also impact water availability and safety, internet connectivity, cell phone network coverage, fuel pumps (and therefore fuel availability), residential security features, and the food supply.”

It warned that power outages have the potential to increase crime.

“For example, traffic jams when lights are out provide opportunities for smash-and-grab crime, and residences can be targeted when lights are out, and security systems are not functioning,” the embassy stated.

“Further, ongoing conditions have led to an increase in protests and demonstrations, and in some cases civil unrest, throughout the country.”

The embassy reminded US citizens travelling or living in South Africa that the country has a level 2 travel advisory, advising them to exercise increased caution due to crime and civil unrest.

It also advised that citizens prepare for emergencies.

In addition to stockpiling food and water, the embassy offered the following guidance:

  • Have a communications plan for when there is no or limited power (landline locations, external cell phone battery, additional charging cords, hard copy of important numbers, etc.)
  • Ensure you have necessary medicine, personal hygiene supplies, eyeglasses
  • Memorise family members’ phone numbers
  • Identify safe areas around the city; these could include hotels, hospitals, churches, or police stations that may not lose power
  • Store flashlights, batteries, radio, and basic tools in a safe location where all family members have easy access

The embassy’s advisory comes after the US government told businesses and financial institutions operating in South Africa to start thinking about a total grid collapse.

A US Government minerals and energy expert focusing on South Africa spoke to stakeholders at a meeting convened by the US Overseas Security Advisory Council.

Although a blackout remains unlikely, they said the risk has increased due to how unreliable Eskom’s coal fleet has become.

The consequences of a total blackout would be devastating, making it worth preparing for even if the likelihood is low.


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US Embassy in South Africa issues alert to stock up on food and water