Right now it is the rainy season in Zambia. Except it isn’t raining.
For all of African Vision of Hope’s staff in Zambia, this is very troubling. They know the effects of a drought are much more than just a lack of rain. It means famine, it means Cholera, and it means further challenges to those already facing extreme poverty. Elliot Mwanza, the Child Sponsorship Coordinator in Zambia, answered some of our most pressing questions about the drought in Zambia.
- How long is Zambia’s rainy season?
“The normal rainy season is from November to early April. January and February usually have a lot of rainfall, but this year it is a different story. We have less rains, or I should say no rains.”
- During a normal rainy season how much does it rain per day?
“We usually have rains four to five days a week, and it rains twice a day.”
- How long has it been since it last rained?
“We have not had any rain in 2018, and it barely rained during November and December. We should be getting rain twice a day almost every day. This is devastating to us.”
- What will happen because of this drought? What are the impacts on the environment and the health of Zambians?
“Our farmers depend on the rains for cultivation. If the drought continues we will have a lot of hunger and famine this year. We depend on the corn that the farmers produce as a country. No rains means no corn, and no corn means no nshima (our staple food). The corn should be as tall as my knees right now, but in most places it is only a few inches tall if it is even growing at all. If it is growing, it is wilted and dried up. Also, our electricity is generated using water. Without water there is no electricity, and no electricity means the production of other products and foods reduces. This causes the prices of goods to increase and makes it more difficult for families to buy their day to day necessities. Families will have to go without the things that they desperately need. More children will be starving, sickness will spread, if this dry trend continues into February we are in trouble.”
When it finally DOES begin to rain, there will be severe flash flooding and the washing away of crops. This drought has caused an enormous cholera outbreak that has impacted our Zambian staff and students alike. The lack of rain means no fresh water is added to lakes and other water sources. Bacteria grows, people drink the infected water, and then they get sick. People need to cook, bathe, drink and clean their clothes with water. Water is involved in almost every aspect of daily life. The teachers at African Vision of Hope see the negative effects of the famine in the classroom, where students struggle to stay awake and pay attention on empty stomachs. Some students even drop out of school to help their families find food. The issue of hunger impacts girls and boys differently. Girls become vulnerable to being tempted to trade their bodies for food. Prostitution is the easiest way for vulnerable and starving girls to feed themselves, and for mothers to feed their children. Most of these women end up contracting HIV and AIDS, all because they are trying to survive and feed themselves and their children.
Elliot asks that we all pray for the country of Zambia, for they know that hard times are ahead. For a country who is already battling one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, a drought is just another burden to carry.