Teresa José, a 47-year-old mother, doesn't know where her three eldest children are. They headed off to the city of Benguela, about 100km from where they live in Mahumbulo village in south-western Angola, in search of work.
When the rains didn’t come, they had to do something to help the family, even though they range in age from 13 to 16.
“I don’t know where they are, but I know they shelter somewhere near the sea,” she says.
Benguela, situated alongside the beaches of the dazzling Atlantic Ocean, is the second most populous city in Angola. Here, begging children pound the streets in the evenings, hoping for some scraps of food or spare change.
Benguela is about a seven-hour drive south from Luanda, the country’s capital and playground of the rich who make their money from Angola’s vast natural resources, including gems, metals and oil. Angola ranks among the highest of the oil-producing countries in Africa — but the majority of the population do not share in this wealth and are mostly left to their own devices.
Teresa and her elderly husband Jorce Chombela, 72, have three younger children too.
The youngest, two-year-old Maria José, rests listlessly on her mother’s lap in the oppressive heat. Dressed in a pretty embroidered dress, she seems oblivious to the hustle and bustle around her as the villagers gather to receive food rations from ForAfrika.
The country, with many dependent on agriculture for food, is currently experiencing its worst drought in 40 years, resulting in severe food insecurity. Mahumbulo is one of the driest areas in the Caimbambo municipality.
Jorce is forced to make and sell charcoal to bring in some money to feed his family. But, it is not enough.
Charcoal is a source of income that many families in the area have turned to, however, this has a further negative impact on the environment since trees are cut down to produce it.
“The bag of charcoal is sold at 4000 kwanza ($8); taking 2000 kz for transport, we only have half left to feed the whole family,” says Teresa.
“We haven't harvested anything from the field since last year, we hope with faith that we will have a late harvest … and our other children will come home.”
ForAfrika is supporting this community with school feeding, rations of MannaPack rice and is investigating the possibility of drilling wells in the hopes to establish a community garden that will ease the burden on parents.
In other areas affected by the drought, ForAfrika has launched an emergency response for therapeutic feeding.
“We are facing a very serious situation ahead. We have so far repurposed F75 and F100 [therapeutic milk] to save lives for the next few months but this is not enough,” says Killen Otieno, ForAfrika’s Chief Operations Officer.