© UNICEF/UN032900/Mukwazhi

There’s a crisis looming over East and Southern Africa.

The region’s worst drought in decades has wreaked havoc on Ethiopia, Angola, Zimbabwe and surrounding countries. River beds dried up, livestock perished and crops were burnt to a crisp. Floods have polluted what little clean water remained.

It’s a deadly combination and a daily reality for the 26 million children in East and Southern Africa at risk - the equivalent of Australia’s entire population. As food becomes desperately scarce, parents are struggling to give their children enough nutritious meals.
A mother in Zimbabwe cuts homemade bread for her children. This is the only meal they’ll eat today. UNICEF is working to reach 1.8 million young children in Zimbabwe who doesn’t receive enough nutritious food with vitamin A supplements this year. ©UNICEF/UN019014/Mukwazhi


Many families have been forced to skip meals and sell off assets to keep their children safe. 80 year-old Ripisai Manonge just sold her last cattle. It was the only way to keep her grandchildren in class through severe drought that cut crop yields and killed livestock.
Ripisai holds a plate of poor grain harvested from her scorched field, and stands in the empty enclosure that once housed all her cattle. © UNICEF/Mukwazhi
With a grandchild who is HIV positive, Ripisai is not new to hardship. But she’s among millions of people in her country and region running out of options.

Families like Ripisai’s who just last year had crops, livestock and regular income have been forced to forage for food. With plants and animals withering to dust - here’s what is left for families to eat.

Water lily root 

Makia holds the roots of a water lily known as ‘Nyika’ in the Chikwawa district of Malawi. © UNICEF/UN024073/Rich

Makia wouldn’t normally feed her family this. The boiled root of water lilies isn’t just low in nutritional value - it also grows in the crocodile-infested waters of her village making it dangerous to harvest.

But late rains, dry spells and severe flooding in Malawi have left many like Makia with little other option. Her family have relied on this root for months - and now even that is starting to run out. With four children battling severe acute malnutrition and health clinics too far away, Makia is struggling to cope.

“We just live day to day,” she says. “What can we do?”

Wild fruits

A woman in Zimbabwe holds a handful of wild fruit. © UNICEF/UN032901/Mukwazhi

Many communities in Zimbabwe face similar problems. Here, in the Matebeland South Province, several families have resorted to eating one meal a day and gathering wild fruits to survive.

For many children - it’s not enough. In early 2016, the global acute malnutrition rate in Zimbabwe was at a fifteen year high.

Dried fruits

A woman in Zimbabwe holds a handful of dried fruit. ©UNICEF/UN032899/Mukwazhi

According to the government of Zimbabwe, more than four million people in the country will need food aid assistance to cope with El Nino induced drought. UNICEF is working everyday to protect children from malnutrition - we’ll reach over 240,000 babies and young children with vitamin A supplements this year alone.

‘Pigeon peas’

8 year-old Kelvin stirs a handful of dried peas. It’s all he and his siblings will eat today. © UNICEF/UN024072/Rich

It’s hard to imagine how anything ever grew in Alinafe’s cracked, barren field - but it once grew enough for her to take care of her four children by herself. Now, the family’s daily meal is a handful of dried peas called ‘nandoko’ or ‘pigeon peas’.

But pigeon peas aren’t enough to sustain a young body. Her two year-old daughter Desire has been diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition and Alinafe depends on a therapeutic nutrition supplement supplied by UNICEF to her local hospital to keep her alive.

Desire’s situation is becoming increasingly common. One in two children under five in Malawi are showing signs of malnutrition - a condition that could leave them stunted for life. That’s why UNICEF is working to reach 453,500 young children like Desire with micronutrients to help them through childhood safe from malnutrition.

Miracle food ‘Plumpy’nut’

Thabang feeds her daughter Kilebuhile, one of over 625,430 children in Zimbabwe UNICEF is working to reach this year. © UNICEF/UN033051/Mukwazhi

Zimbabwe’s drought has had a big impact on little Kilebuhile. Dangerous illnesses can grip a nation in times of crisis and she’s just begun to recover from a severe rash. Now she has access to Plumpy’nut - a high-protein peanut paste that can help a child’s weak body recover fast.

Just $12 means 25 packets of ‘miracle food’ for Kilebuhile, which is enough for just over a week. When it only takes three sachets a day to bring a child back from the brink of malnutrition - it’s a true lifesaver. UNICEF is working to bring children like Kilebuhile the food, water, vaccines and other supplies they desperately need. Can you donate $12 to help our teams reach the children who need us most?

Your $12 means urgent therapeutic food to help a child like Kilebuhile recover from malnutrition. It means children like her will have another chance at life. So thank you - your donation means everything.

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