THE BLOG

Hunger Hurts: Extreme Weather is Killing Crops and Causing Hunger

14/04/2016 17:28

Climate change and the El Nino weather phenomenon mean millions of people are struggling to grow the food they need to survive.

In Somaliland drought is causing harvests to fail and turning fields to dust. In Bangladesh flooding rivers and rising seas are swamping crops and robbing people of their livelihoods.

Women and girls living on the margins of survival are finding it ever more difficult to get food and water. Floods and droughts are becoming more frequent and more intense.

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Three-year-old Nimo in Somaliland goes to bed hungry
Photo credit: Jennifer Huxta/Actionaid

Somaliland: dust and drought

El Nino has caused the lowest recorded rainfall across parts of Southern Africa in decades. Crops and livestock are dying as drought takes hold. El Nino has already made more than 34 million people hungry in Eastern and Southern Africa. That number is set to double in the next 12 months.

It is in Africa - where an estimated one million children are already malnourished - that the destructive effects of El Nino are doing the most damage. In Somaliland alone more than 800,000 people are in a state of crisis because their crops have failed and they do not have enough food.

Malyuun Ahmed Omer is a mother-of-eight living in western Somaliland. Most nights, she has to listen to her children including three-year-old Nimo, pictured above, cry themselves to sleep from hunger. They are sick but she can't afford to take them to the clinic.

"When the children fall asleep without eating something, they wake up so weak. You can see from their face and their body."

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Malyuun holds her one-year-old son, Sakeriye-Ahmed
Photo credit: Jennifer Huxta/Actionaid

The family has lost 15 sheep during the drought. Her two remaining cows are a lifeline because they provide her with milk. But she is worried they will die as the drought continues.

In December 2015 ActionAid gave food and water to 400 vulnerable families, including Malyuun's. We distributed rice, wheat flour, dates, sugar, powdered milk, and oil.

In the longer term we are helping to build wells, develop innovative farming methods and supporting women to gain access to land to grow food for their families.

But it's not enough. More needs to be done.

Bangladesh: torrential rain and floods

The picture is very different in Bangladesh. Climate change is causing ever more extreme weather, With more than 700 rivers, rising sea levels and extreme weather like cyclones, flooding is becoming ever more severe and frequent. The chaos this brings is making it ever more difficult for families to feed themselves.

Fatema is 21 and lives with her two children, Reeath and Janratul. Their village was regularly inundated by floodwater. Reeath contracted diarrhoea from the dirty water and couldn't get medical aid.

"I felt fear because we were surrounded by water," she said. "I tried to breastfeed my son and give him my share of food. I was thinking 'what will happen? I can't get to a doctor. Will he live or die?'"

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Fatema playing with her Reeath outside their flood-proof home

Thankfully Reeath survived and the family now live in a new village built by ActionAid. It is constructed on stilts, above the murky flood waters. Fatema can now feed her children, sell crops and save money for the future.

"I don't feel fear now," Fatema said. "Since moving here I dream about my son's future. I didn't have that hope before.

The weather shapes millions of people's lives. It can bring fortune, but it can also bring hardship and hunger.

ActionAid is working to support women like Fatema and Malyuun who are struggling to feed their families. It is vital we act now, before things get any worse.

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