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From the field: By Kenia Diva

Drought in Angola ‘dismantles’ families

Looking for new pastures: Agro-pastoralists have left their families in search of better living conditions in drought-stricken Angola.

Agro-pastoralists are being forced to move further and further away from home in search of food for their livestock.

Caveiambwa, Makahitapi and Mariko of the Muhimba ethnic group have seen their way of life decimated by the drought currently throttling their homeland in southern Angola.

The pastures that they relied on for their cattle shrivelled up and they were forced to migrate to other parts of Cunene in search of better living conditions.

They arrived in the small village of Mujombe, where community leader Maria da Conceição is doing her best to help.

She explains that the Muhimba people are dedicated to pastoral activity and were considered rich because of the quality and number of the cattle they herded. But, the lack of rain has rendered them desperate, with many like them resorting to negative coping mechanisms.

Some poor households, affected by successive shocks, are generating income through the sale of assets such as goats, chickens or cows or traditional alcoholic beverages made from wild fruit.

“We are willing to work at whatever it takes, in exchange for a plate of food,” said Caveiambwa who, at 21, is the eldest of the trio.

“If our communities had water now, we would go back to stay with our family. But for now we cannot. Life there is very difficult and, as men, we need to do something so we don't die,” added Makahitapi.

It is feared that even if rain does come, many agro-pastoralists will unlikely return in time for the beginning of the 2022/23 cropping season as they have travelled further distances than usual.

Maria said that while she is doing everything she can, there are members from her own community who have also been knocking on her door out of hunger.

“There is a massive internal displacement around Cunene, and people are leaving for Namibia,” she says.

She fears massive loss of life and the break-up of families.

“Families are being dismantled because the parents are abandoning their children and leaving home in search of water, food and jobs. We really need humanitarian intervention in the region,” she says.

The World Food Programme has estimated that 1.58-million people in south-western Angola would face severe hunger due to the drought, the worst the country has experienced in 40 years.

ForAfrika launched an emergency response in the area earlier this year, delivering food rations and school-feeding as well as support to about 2,000 households in creating kitchen gardens near available water points in Benguela, Cunene, Huila and Namibe provinces.

“We have limited funding to cover a few schools and clinics until February 2023,” says George Yalla who is in charge of ForAfrika’s disaster response, “but a lot more needs to be done to save people’s lives in these most vulnerable provinces.”

Kenia Diva is ForAfrika Communications Officer for Angola

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