Posted on Mar 17, 2017
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Combatting the drought in southern Africa
Southern Africa is still recovering from the devastating effects brought on by the global environmental anomaly, El Nino, which lasted two years and ended in early 2016. El Nino had an infamous widespread global impact resulting in drought, flooding and other natural disasters. This weather phenomenon was considered to be one of worst in history and many areas across southern Africa were hit particularly hard by El Nino, experiencing temperatures rising well above average leading to drought.
The United Nations recently warned that 14 million people are at risk of starvation across the region as it continues to face widespread water shortages as well as reduced crop and livestock production.
The long-term forecast suggests that in 2017 much of the region will regain most of its lost grain crop, but it is expected to take another two or more years to return livestock production to normal levels. Extreme weather conditions such as El Nino are forecast to become more frequent as global warming is expected to intensify in the future. The UN says that Africa is the most vulnerable region to climate change and lacks proper early warning systems and contingency plans for such disasters.
The drought crippled southern Africa’s rain-fed agricultural production, which accounts for the livelihoods of most people living in the region. Last year’s harvest yield proved meagre, with a regional maize production reduction of 27%, the second consecutively poor rainfall, deepening the already present agricultural vulnerabilities in the region.
Accordingly, over half a million children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Angola, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe while 3.2 million children have reduced access to safe drinking water. The drought has caused an increase in disease outbreaks as people are forced to drink from unprotected water sources and a decline in medical care as clinics and hospitals run dry. Children and caregivers living with HIV and tuberculosis are at particular risk.
The drought poses significant threats to children’s safety, and there has been a marked increase in the migration of unaccompanied and separated children between the ages of 5 and 14, increasing their potential exposure to danger and violence. There has also been a sharp increase in child labour and school dropout as children are forced to work for survival, denying them of their education.
Though countries are still assessing the impact of the drought on the education system, thus far it is evident that it has affected 42% of primary schools in Malawi, forcing over 137,000 children to drop out of school; while in Swaziland, 78% of primary and secondary schools have been affected by the drought.
The impact of El Niño on food security and agricultural livelihoods will continue to be felt until at least April’s harvest. The effects on the sectors of health, nutrition, protection, education and water and sanitation are likely to continue to grow throughout the year. Many of the areas most affected are those with the highest burden of HIV, which has reduced the ability of individuals and communities to withstand the impact of this emergency and collectively work towards building resilience at local and national levels.
What is ACT doing to ensure water security?
We run several projects with the primary aim of supplying schools and communities with sufficient water which they can then use to further sanitation and agriculture, for example.
In Sitikho Ward in Webuye, Bungoma County in the Western province of Kenya, ACT, alongside our local partner JTAN, has carryied out a project to install a pipeline which is providing better access to pipe borne water. Workers on the ground sourced water from the Milo mains supply in Webuye town and local volunteers have laid three kilometres of pipeline to the community in Sitikho. As well as the local primary school, this pipeline is feeding a number of other communities along the route where water storage tanks have been constructed. ACT’s main objective for this project is to provide a continuous supply of water to this rural community as part of a project to empower women, particularly widows, so that they can generate sustainable incomes to support their families. About a third of the 38,000-people living in Sitikho are benefiting from the access to pipe borne water.
Chris Nyongesa, Deputy Headmaster of Bukunjangabo S.A. Primary School, is exceedingly grateful as the project has helped to provide clean, fresh water to the school’s 800 pupils. On top of this, he acknowledged that the pipeline would improve sanitation at the school which would improve the health of the children and, in turn, their performance in their studies.
Local leaders in the surrounding communities have also complemented ACT and JTAN’s work as the available water supply has transformed their land and lives in a positive way. One example of this is that, the 3,000 women and children who undertook the daily trek of several miles to fetch unhygienic water from the river no longer need to bear such a burden.
Greenhouses have also been built and the widows in Sitikho have been provided with seeds and fertiliser to start their farming projects and work together in a cooperative.
Three years ago, at the Nyezerera Primary School, in the Phalombe district, southeast Malawi we set upon the task of providing additional toilets units for the children. Our project aimed to increase the number of toilets to 42, with the provision of toilet blocks, cleaning chemicals and potable water forming the project’s foundations. With the help of Builders House, Croydon, we have to-date carried out the erection of 16 toilet units, bringing the current total to 30.
Despite this success, this school year the population of Nyezerera Primary School has increased to 3024 pupils with 1584 girls. With this rapid pupil increase, we are anxious that the gains we’ve made so far will be insufficient as our previous target of 42 toilets is now out of date. There is a desperate need to additional raise funds for the building of more toilet blocks.
Our new target is 60 toilets, which would mean we need to build an additional 30 units at a projected cost of £14,400. As our available budget does not cover this amount we desperately need to raise additional funds for this purpose. ACT’s sponsors played a key role in providing the requisite funds to undertake this project, however more work is needed.
You can contribute to the vital work ACT is doing to ensure water security here.