Sex for food or teenage marriages: The consequences of climate change and hunger in South Africa

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The number of people in food insecurity in the countries of the South of the continent has increased 140% in the last two years

In desperate situations, desperate measures. The serious food crisis in the countries of South Africa, where the consequences of extreme phenomena derived from climate change are wreaking havoc on crops, is especially affecting women and girls and forcing them to seek extreme survival mechanisms.

These mechanisms, as Oxfam, CARE, Plan International and World Vision warn, include adolescent marriage or sex in order to acquire some food with which to survive.

“In this region, the climate crisis is permanent and is ending the means of survival thanks to which communities and families have survived periods of food shortage for generations,” explains Oxfam’s regional director for South Africa, Nellie Nyang’wa

“This crisis is not temporary. Right now it is the way of life of the people of the region,” he emphasizes. In the nine countries of the region, food insecurity figures have increased by 140 percent since 2018. Thus, there are 14.4 million people at risk of serious food insecurity, compared to the 6 million there were two years ago.

According to the NGOs in their statement, the situation is especially serious in Zimbabwe, where there are 5.8 million people who are hungry, while in Zambia there are 2.3 million affected, in Mozambique there are 2 million and in Malawi 1, 9 million

In the last two years, the delay in the arrival of rainfall and its scarcity, the longest since 1981, as well as other phenomena such as floods and rising temperatures, have altered the cycles, wreaking havoc with devastating results for the population.

As a result, there are large losses in crops, affecting several crops, including corn, one of the staple foods whose price has increased throughout the region since 2019.

SEVERE DROUGHT
The magnitude of the drought throughout South Africa is alarming, the four NGOs working in the region recognize. In the last 5 years, the continued deterioration of crops has meant that countries have not had enough time to recover from previous crises and that their cereal reserves have been depleted.

Droughts have had a devastating impact on small farmers and, especially, women farmers in the region.

“Women and girls are the most affected during times of drought and those who suffer disproportionately from the consequences of climate change,” says CARE deputy regional director Matthew Pickard.

“They assume the greatest responsibility burden of households, which, in addition to household chores and the raising of sons and daughters, includes ensuring that their families have food and water,” he adds, noting that they are also the last to receive food and the first to skip meals. “

“We have talked to several mothers like Rachel, an 18-year-old single mother from southern Zimbabwe, who often says that they skip meals for a day or two to make sure their sons and daughters have what to eat,” he says. Pickard

TEENS OBLIGED TO MARRY FOR FOOD
“We are very concerned about the growing number of teenagers who are being forced to marry in exchange for food,” said Plan International regional head of disaster risk management, Stuart Katwikirize.

Ndjiole, a 16-year-old Angolan girl, was forced to leave her studies and her home to take care of the land and family cattle. “We are farmers and we have not been able to harvest since last season. We only have our livestock left. If we lose it, we will starve,” Ndjiole tells World Vision.

“We are seeing an alarming increase in the number of girls who resort to sex as a way to earn money to get some food. They barely earn 40 cents every time they resort to this practice,” denounces the director of humanitarian and emergency affairs at World Vision in the region, Maxwell Sibhensana.

“The increase in commodity prices and food shortages make some girls feel they have no choice. We are concerned about the long-term impact of this type of violence towards young women,” he acknowledges.

Thus, the NGOs lament, although the countries of South Africa requested more than 1,000 million euros to cope with this food crisis, they have only received half of the required amount.

Therefore, Oxfam, CARE, World Vision and Plan International urgently request that the United Nations humanitarian appeal be funded for

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