Frontline Stories

Fighting against El Niño, Feeding the Hungry


Recurrent drought, floods and cyclones have continued to plague Southern Africa, generating exponential growth in hunger. Crops across the major production belt of Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe are destroyed and enabled an environment for pests and vectors to undermine the previous season’s harvest. Changes in rainfall patterns have also reduced the growing period of crops.

Notwithstanding the natural hazards, the region has been plagued by weak economic growth underscored by poor economic management. There are impacts on people’s livelihoods and the region’s broader development efforts, such as employment opportunities, energy generation, health and nutrition. Over nine million people across the region are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. The number is expected to increase as the situation continues to worsen in the upcoming six months.

Vulnerable Communities in Mozambique

Mozambique was hit by one of the strongest El Niño in 35 years in the 2015/2016 cropping season. An estimated 1.5 million people were affected. Subsequent cropping seasons were also affected by dry conditions and lack of seeds. More than 800,000 people in 31 districts faced a crisis food security situation with little or nothing to eat.

30-year-old Massingue, a mother of four, is six months pregnant. Her husband left her to live in another village. Her oldest daughter Ludia, aged 12, has to look after the house and her young siblings. She does not go to school anymore. With the challenges caused by the drought, Massingue and her daughters have had to survive on wild leaves and fruits, eating only once a day on most days.

“We barely harvest anything from what we plant because there is little rains” she says. “There were many days when we went to bed hungry and most times, we ate only once surviving on wild fruits and leaves to survive,” she adds.

Massinga and her family are among the 232 families in the area receiving the emergency food security assistance. They receive 37.5 kilograms of maize flour, 12 kilograms of beans and 3 litres of cooking oil and 1 kilogram of salt.

For Carlitos, a 53-year-old farmer, life on the farm for the past three years has not been easy for his family of eight. The El Niño-induced dry spells have led to massive crop failures and left them with little to eat. His community members relying on farming as a source of livelihood now live with this dreadful new reality.

Carlitos remembers the time when things were better. “Before the drought came, we could plant and harvest crops knowing full well that afterwards we could have our maize, beans, and other crops for sell,” Carlitos says.

Sending Help

World Vision is leveraging its partnerships with various UN agencies, communities, donors and faith-based organizations to respond to the crisis. In Zimbabwe, World Vision has already mobilized sufficient resources through various partnerships to respond to the urgent needs of the most vulnerable communities. World Vision will continue to mobilise action for life-saving assistance to meet the critical needs of affected children.

In Mozambique, World Vision is working with local communities by providing food assistance to 16,065 families in 115 villages. “Our lives have changed for the better,” Massinga says, as she prepares lunch for her children under a tree outside her small house.

Published on 22 Oct 2019

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