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Zimbabwe: Orphans struggle in drought crisis

An 11-year-old orphaned boy recounts the hardships he has faced caring for his ailing grandmother while simultaneously coping with food shortages and depleted resources in beleaguered Southern Africa.

January 2008

For a boy of just 11, Emmanuel Ngwenya has seen more than his share of adversity.
For a boy of just 11, Emmanuel has seen more than his share of adversity. His parents have both died, and he was forced to drop out of school to care for his ill, elderly grandmother — all while dealing with a severe drought that has caused massive food shortages and threatened his future.
© 2007 Sibusisiwe Ndlovu/World Vision
Eleven-year-old Emmanuel Ngwenya has had to grow up extraordinarily quickly.

He went to live with his 77-year-old grandmother two years ago following the death of his parents — a common pattern in AIDS-ravaged Zimbabwe. But instead of her looking after him, he is looking after her because she is almost blind and can barely walk due to old age and ill health.

Emmanuel dropped out of Gwichi Primary School to care for his grandmother — but a prolonged drought affecting his home district of Nkayi means he struggles to ensure both of them have enough food to eat.

In his own words

In spite of these difficulties, Emmanuel carries on. This is how he tells his story:

I have taken care of a neighboring villager's 10 cattle for the past two years. They promised that they would plough my grandmother's fields this year if I took good care of their cattle. At least if we harvest something in our own field, we won't be faced with hunger. I will sell extra buckets of food and go back to school, because I have always wanted to be a policeman when I complete my studies.

Grandmother instructed me to remove window frames from our hut and sell them to get money. I exchanged the money for five buckets of maize that we had to eat carefully until our supply ran out.

I used to cook corn porridge in the morning and feed my grandmother, and then I would eat. This single meal is what kept us going. Life was difficult then, and I thought that we would die of hunger. Neighbors got tired of helping us with food, as they knew we would be unable to pay them back in any way. This continued until the local chief's wife told me that grandmother and myself had been registered to get some food from World Vision.

I was happy to be part of this, because our hunger problems were over. It has brought relief in my heart that we are assured of food every day, although it troubles me whether the villager whose cattle I herd will truly plough my grandmother's fields. The animals are weak as there is no food, and all the rivers and streams have dried up. I'm afraid they may die soon. And my dream of going to school will be shattered.

I pray every day that it rains so that these cattle get water to drink and food to eat, because my future lies in these cattle ploughing grandmother's field.

An already desperate region hit again

In this same area of Africa long burdened by drought, recent weeks have brought about heavy rains and flooding caused in part by dry, hardened topsoil unable to absorb moisture. Read more...

Bringing aid to a desperate situation

Diminishing food resources prompted World Vision to launch the Vulnerable Group Feeding Program in Nkayi in October with funding from the World Food Program. Each of the 57,000 beneficiaries receives a monthly ration of 26 pounds of cereals and 2 pounds of pulses.

The chief's wife, Jennifer Madliwa Khumalo, says the large number of dependent orphans, whose parents have died of AIDS, exacerbates the impact of the current drought.

"I am really grateful to World Vision that has brought this feeding program," she says. "Most of the children were being turned away from school because of fainting spells due to hunger."

Southern Africa is currently experiencing the worst drought in 30 years. Some 5 million people in Lesotho, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe are threatened with hunger and malnutrition. World Vision plans to eventually assist 1.7 million people in each of the three countries to meet their immediate survival needs. In addition to food aid, World Vision currently is implementing agriculture, sanitation, and water programs to help the affected populace cope with future droughts and other shocks.

Learn more

>> Read a story about how a family in Southern Africa has battled seemingly insurmountable odds through an unwavering faith in God.
>> Read an eNews article about how World Vision-supported water projects in Southern Africa are helping children and families cope with the region's worst drought in three decades.

Four ways you can help

>> Please pray for an end to the drought that is devastating countries in Southern Africa, including Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and Lesotho. Pray for God's intervention for children like Emmanuel, who face the dual crises of AIDS and severe food shortages.
>> Give monthly to help provide nutritious food to children around the world threatened by malnutrition. Become a Child Crisis Partner.
>> Ask Congress to swiftly reauthorize the global AIDS bill, scheduled to expire on Sept. 30, 2008. Tell lawmakers that the legislation should set aside 10 percent of funds specifically for the care of orphans, like Emmanuel, and other vulnerable children affected by AIDS.
>> Sponsor a HopeChild in an AIDS-affected community.

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