Defending Dignity. Fighting Poverty.

OUR STORIES: AUGUST 2016

The human face of the drought

By Adérito Bié, CARE Communications Officer in Mozambique 
“I have never used a camera before, neither have I seen myself in a photo or in a mirror”, was one of the first things volunteer Rita said to me when I started my training on photography and storytelling in a small village close to Funhalouro, in the South of Mozambique, a few weeks ago. It’s sufficient to say that this did not make me feel very confident about the outcome of our photo project “Through the lens of hunger”, where we asked seven CARE community volunteers to move behind the lens to show the world how they and their communities are affected by the current drought in Mozambique.

I work for CARE’s Emergency Team in Mozambique, and for the past months I have met mothers who fear their children might die because they don’t have enough to eat; I have spoken to fathers who travel far from their homes to find work to feed their families; and I saw girls cry because they fear to drop out of school, spending their days fetching water and selling firewood. But as aid workers we only see glimpses of people’s ordeal, nothing compared to what the people affected by this crisis experience. With our photography project “Through the lens of hunger” we wanted to hear their own stories, wanted to know how they and their communities are affected by this worst drought in 35 years, but also how they work together to overcome their hardships. The CARE volunteers who participated suffer themselves from food shortages and hunger. But yet they spend their time counselling and advising families in their communities on health care and hygiene and lend an ear to their plight.

During the training, the volunteers learnt how to use cameras, some basics about light and perspective and about storytelling. It was my first time training people who had never taken a photograph before or used any sort of technology, and I worked hard to explain it in a way that it is easy to understand. I did my very best and the volunteers were very keen and interested, but when we went back to collect the stories and photos a week after the training, I was really unsure what to expect. When we finally transferred the photos from the camera to the computer, I could hardly believe my eyes and was deeply touched by the talent and creativity of the volunteers.

All of them managed to capture unique and personal insights into their daily lives and how the drought affects their communities, themselves and their work as a volunteer. Each of them decided on a different, individual focus. Raulina shows 10-year-old Filani’s long and difficult search for water; João tells the story of how he does everything to make sure that his community does not fall sick. Rita, a volunteer since three years, talks about the difficulties she experiences in her work since the beginning of the drought: “I have all the knowledge about wild fruits and leaves, how to prepare them and how a diet for young children should look like. But the ideal of having three meals a day, unfortunately, is only useful in theory right now. My own granddaughter cries because she is hungry and we can simply not provide her with enough food.” But despite her own suffering, she continues her support for others. “Older women and girls need our help the most”, she explained, determined to make changes happen, even during difficult times.

Similarly, João told me: “I was trained to be a volunteer by CARE and I will continue as long as there will be a need for me.” All of the volunteers are determined to share with the outside world how they and their communities are fighting against the drought and its impact on education, food security and health. I hope that many people will stop seeing El Niño and the drought as something abstract, and start seeing the situation through the eyes of the volunteers. I hope that the international community urgently steps up its efforts for millions of people in need in Southern Africa, and supports women and men like Rita, Raulina and João in their ceaseless efforts to help their communities survive.

 

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