Defending Dignity. Fighting Poverty.

PRESS RELEASE: NOVEMBER 2016

Women and Girls at the forefront of drought and climate change

Maputo, 15th November 2016 - Women and girls in Mozambique are struggling more than ever to cope with the current drought, the worst in 35 years, aggravated by a particularly powerful El Niño phenomenon, according to a new CARE study. Researchers have talked to 75 people in the region of Inhambane to get first-hand impressions of what the situation is like in areas affected by drought and hunger.
 
Up to 80 percent of the families are forced to reduce their meals to only one or two daily rations. Tens of thousands of children are expected to be acutely malnourished. The situation is particularly hard for teenage girls who lack the experience and knowledge to come up with strategies to protect themselves and their children from hunger.
 
According to CARE’s assessment, younger girls and adolescents are pulled out of school to help their parents fetch water.
 
"We are the second year into this drought in the South of the country and the situation of women and girls is becoming more and more destitute", says Marc Nosbach, Country Director of CARE in Mozambique.
 
"They are now spending up to six hours per day in search of water, three times as much as prior to the drought.”

The sheer desperation to provide for their families causes some women to resort to survival sex or other forms of exploitative behavior in return for money and food. CARE’s research also suggests an increase in child marriage, with families aiming to reduce the number of dependents in the family or cover expenses through the payment of a bride price. 
 
Ever since food has become painfully scarce in Mozambique, many girls are increasingly exposed to sexual and gender-based violence. “During our research we found that girls as young as 11 or 12 years have been lured away from water collection points by older men in exchange for food stocks or money. Some of the girls discovered later that they are pregnant and are consequently stigmatized by the community and family,” says Nosbach.
 
The CARE study also shows that those communities who participated in programs introducing new cultivation practices, better seeds and alternative income activities were far better prepared to manage lean months than those without knowledge. “We know that adaptation to climate change and droughts is our most effective tool to combat the severe effects. CARE urges the international community and decision-makers at the UN Climate
Change Conference currently happening in Morocco to ensure sufficient funding for adaption and resilience programs. Otherwise, hard-won developmental gains will continue to unravel and recovery will be costly and take decades,” says Nosbach.
 
Other important findings:
  • There is a new trend for women to migrate, leaving behind children in the care of grandparents. Furthermore, many men who traditionally migrate in search of seasonal work on farms and mines in South Africa were unable to return or send remittances to cover household expenses due to the fact that Southern Africa also feels the severe impact of drought. 70% of men and women have stated that their migration is due to lack of food, drought conditions or lack of water.
     
  • Existing and new strategies to cope with the drought have high environmental and social costs. Families are increasingly taking up the production and sale of local beers to generate income. Some add locally brewed beer to the diet of their children to minimize hunger symptoms for their younger children. Prior to the drought families’ coping strategies included seasonal migration, harvesting of wood and production of charcoal.
     
  • Women and girls have reduced access to water for consumption and personal hygiene. Access to sanitary supplies for menstrual hygiene has become a challenge, as traditionally used absorbent plant material is now scarcer. Women and girls are not able to purchase sanitary pads due to lack of resources so many have now resorted to using harsher plant matter or packed sand to keep clean during their period.
 
CARE International in Mozambique: CARE has been working in Mozambique since 1984. CARE’s teams on the ground are working intensely to reach as many families with humanitarian assistance possible. As part of a consortium CARE aims to reach 500,000 people in the areas worst affected by the drought, with the empowerment of women and girls being a major focus of our work. CARE assists people with cash vouchers for food, repairs broken water systems and establishes new ones, and identification and referral of malnourished children. CARE is also working with families in drought affected areas to increase the productivity and profitability of crops, and works with farmers on using modern farming techniques. CARE additionally supports village saving groups to help people set up alternative sources of income, and become more resilient to climate change and reoccurring natural disasters.

 

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