The crises in Zimbabwe and Madagascar were a major focus of IRIN’s Southern Africa coverage, though riots over food and fuel prices in early September 2010 in Mozambique managed to grab the headlines for a while.
Civil rights activists warned of a possible surge of violence if elections - hinted at by President Robert Mugabe - go ahead in 2011. Major donors have said that if elections are not free and fair the level of their engagement and support will be affected.
Donor support to get essential services up and running after the devastating cholera outbreak of 2008/2009 is paying off. IRIN reported health services had improved but poor salaries have kept staff morale low.
With a poorly paid civil service, allegations of corruption are commonplace. IRIN took a closer look at the ability of ordinary Zimbabweans to access identity documents and found that a passport could cost up to US$300.
Zimbabwean migrants in neighbouring South Africa were desperate to get hold of passports as the government announced it would resume deportation of undocumented Zimbabweans from 1 January 2011. At least a million Zimbabweans are estimated to be living in South Africa and were victims of xenophobic attacks.
The prospects for the Indian Ocean island state of Madagascar - now run by former radio DJ Andry Rajoelina who seized power from President Marc Ravalomanana in 2009 with the backing of the army - worsened when some soldiers attempted to seize control in November 2010. The coup attempt coincided with a referendum on constitutional reforms which made Rajoelina eligible to stand for election.
Donors suspended all but emergency assistance to the financially dependent country of 20 million people after Rajoelina took office, and the USA ended the preferential access enjoyed by Madagascar's textile industry to its markets under the African Growth and Opportunities Act. This has had a devastating impact on livelihoods.
IRIN also wrote about how Madagascar's transitional government was beginning to export illegally harvested precious hardwoods to generate revenue.
Nosy Be, an island off the northwest coast of Madagascar, was the focus of an IRIN report on community efforts to combat sex tourism.
Angola grabbed the spotlight when it continued to violently expel Democratic Republic of Congo nationals from its territory. The Cabindan separatist movement in Angola denied that the conflict had ended (interview with IRIN).
Women's rights in Swaziland received a setback when its highest court reversed a ruling which allowed married women to register property in their own name.
Other IRIN reports covered the increasing strains on a century-old, five-nation Southern African Customs Union funded largely by 1.15 percent of South Africa's gross domestic product; social transfer programmes which help to reduce poverty in Africa; and World Bank cash transfers in Malawi indicating that unconditional transfers can have the same effect as conditional transfers.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions