Children out of school and at work as hunger deepens in Southern Africa, finds report

Johannesburg, 19 July 2016 – El Nino is having a devastating impact on children in the Southern Africa region forcing them into early marriage, child labour and out of school, reveals a World Vision report released today.

The report based on expert insight from nine countries in the region found that El Nino was severely impacting the lives of children and their futures.  Although El Nino as a climatic phenomenon is now over food insecurity has yet to peak putting 49 million people at risk.

Report findings found that El Nino’s impacts were worsening the lives of children in a number of areas with more migrating out of impoverished areas, facing separation, hunger, sexual exploitation, violence, child labour and psychosocial distress.  Eighty percent of experts questioned said school drop-outs had increased largely due to lack of food.

Globally, USD3.9 billion has been requested for the 19 worst affected countries, yet the current funding gap is almost USD2.5 billion. The United Nations’ Children Fund (UNICEF) estimates that 26 million children across Eastern and Southern Africa are at risk from malnutrition, water shortages and disease.[1]

“It seems that in disasters like this, children come last,” said Rudo Kwaramba, Regional Leader, World Vision, Southern Africa. The report, Regional Child Protection Rapid Assessment, was designed to explore the various ways children are impacted by a slow-onset emergency, Like El Nino.

“I did not want to marry. I wanted to study,” said a young girl in Mozambique who, aged 14, was forced to marry a man many years older, after her family ran out of food. When her husband started beating her, she ran away.

Of the multi-billions of dollars needed for a comprehensive response only USD11.7m is needed for protection programmes in Southern Africa. Of this amount, only 6% has been pledged by donors, making it the most under-funded sector in the response.

“We all need to work together to ensure children are safe, especially during emergencies,” said Kwaramba. “Donors should be asking each organisation, ‘What are you doing for children? How are you protecting them? But it’s also up to us. We all need to ask ourselves, how much is the safety of children worth?”.

The report is the outcome of an assessment of children’s protection issues in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Angola, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was conducted by World Vision, PLAN International and UNICEF who interviewed child protection experts on what they were seeing happening to children.

The findings included:

Child migration - Over 70 percent of respondents cited a lack of food as the driver. Drought and the lack of water was the second most common cause.

Child Labour - Just over half of respondents believed that child labour had increased since the start of El Niño and believed that is was more likely to impact boys rather than girls.

Unaccompanied and Separated Children - Just under half of the respondents said that parents commonly send their children away due to the lack of food. These children are likely to be between 5-14 years old.

School Drop-out - Nearly eighty per cent of responders said school drop-outs had increased since the start of El Niño. In one province in Zimbabwe alone, 6,000 children had dropped out of school due to hunger or the need to help their families with house or farm work.

The agencies involved in the study are calling for much greater attention be paid to protecting children in emergency responses, including doing more to monitor and prevent children dropping out of school and ensuring child protection interventions be prioritised by donors.

“We think of food and water as the most important things – it’s true, without them we cannot live – but being forced out of school and into work or into marriage at a young age ends the lives of children in a different way,” said Kwaramba.



Full report -

Summary of the report -

For more information or an interview with Rudo Kwaramba please contact Melany Markham +36 3068 90412.