The Drought Crisis
This year Hands at Work faces an extreme drought crisis in Africa, which has gripped a huge part of the population, specifically those described as ‘the poorest of the poor’ in a way that is unprecedented in human memory. A million children right now face dire consequences because of hunger, sickness, and lack of water. Within these people exists a layer – vulnerable children like Chuma* and grandmothers – who will not survive unless there is an intervention.
Chuma* lives with his mother and two sisters in the community of Honde Valley, Zimbabwe. Chuma’s mother is left on her own, and must provide food and basic needs including school fees for the three young children. This year, the drought has affected Chuma’s family in a very real way – in the past their small harvest has helped to support them, but this year the entire crop has failed to grow. She has nothing to sell, which means no food on the table and no money for school fees. Chuma and his sisters visit the Life Centre in Honde Valley every day to receive a meal – the only food they eat in a day – and even that, they take home to share with their mother. Chuma's family will have nothing from their crop harvest because of the because the lack of rain which has destroyed their field. Chuma is in just one of the many villages Hands at Work is serving. This crippling drought is gripping many villages this year, and affecting many of our children and families.
Planting season in Africa is between September and October, and harvest season between April and May. As a result of the drought, the harvest planted in October 2015 was a total failure. The earliest next crop to be planted will be in October 2016, only to be harvested in May 2017. At best, the first time staple foods like maize and beans could be available will be June or July 2017, once dried and prepared. Should there be another year with poor rainfall like this year, not only would planting be prevented again, but we could be facing a complete humanitarian catastrophe. What we are already seeing is a crisis on a large scale. This drought has caused widespread hunger, and millions of people are on the brink of starvation.
Though media outlets are beginning to report on the crisis affecting Southern Africa, it is far from ‘big news’ yet. Few people are aware of the drought challenges in Africa, let alone able to engage and make a difference. However, it is in these very communities that Hands at Work is already working and seeing first-hand the scale of the crisis busy unfolding.
South Africa, Swaziland, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and the south of Zambia have been hardest hit, directly impacted by a severe lack of rainfall. However, all of our countries – including further north in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, are suffering from escalated food prices and limited availability of staple foods (in Malawi, for example, staple foods like maize have risen by 73%). Hands at Work is engaged in a very real crisis which is estimated to continue for at least the next 18 months.
The only way Hands at Work will be able to respond to this crisis in a meaningful, strategic and timely way is by uniting together in a response. This is a key moment for the Hands at Work family. Not only to be with the people it serves, but to speak on their behalf. Even though it is a crisis, it is also a huge opportunity to go deeper in the communities Hands at Work is working in and to align itself with their suffering.