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Deadly Drought in Southern Africa Leaves Millions Hungry


In this photo taken on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, Paul van Wyk, a small scale farmer, kneels down in a cracked bed of a water pan in Vosburg, South Africa. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)
Deadly Drought in Southern Africa Leaves Millions Hungry
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A months-long drought affecting most of southern Africa has led to serious food shortages for millions of people.

The United Nations estimates that more than 11 million people are currently facing crisis levels of food insecurity. The World Food Program says southern Africa has received normal rainfall in just one of the past five growing seasons.

Among the hardest hit areas is South Africa’s Northern Cape province. There, many farmers are struggling to keep their families and animals alive as they lose money and debt grows.

Sheep farmer Louis van der Merwe told The Associated Press he had lost more than 400 sheep and 450 springboks over the past two years. He said the current drought is the worst he has seen during his 45 years of farming.

Some of his animals died of hunger. Others were harvested earlier than normal to reduce the number of animals he had to feed. Van der Merwe got emotional while explaining that he now accepts donations of animal feed so he can keep the rest of his animals alive.

In this photo taken on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, sheep owned by commercial sheep farmer Louis van der Merwe eat fortified food on his farm in Vosburg, South Africa. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)
In this photo taken on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, sheep owned by commercial sheep farmer Louis van der Merwe eat fortified food on his farm in Vosburg, South Africa. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

“If we didn’t have hope, we would not be here anymore,” he said. “We have to have hope and faith. There are a couple of times when we have felt it is not worth it.”

One farmers’ organization estimates that South Africa’s Northern Cape province will need at least $28 million over the next three months to assist 15,500 affected farms. So far, South Africa’s government has promised $2 million.

Gertruida Buffel lives in the Northern Cape town of Vosburg. She told the AP that things have gotten so bad that she now shares her family’s food with their animals.

For two weeks, she fed two small lambs a mixture of dried corn and water after their mother starved to death. But she said one lamb ended up dying, likely because the corn mixture was not part of the lambs’ usual diet.

In this photo taken on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, children share a meal they received from a government sponsored feeding scheme at the Delta Primary School in Vosburg, South Africa. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)
In this photo taken on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019, children share a meal they received from a government sponsored feeding scheme at the Delta Primary School in Vosburg, South Africa. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)

Small children are hungry, too. At Vosburg’s only school, Delta Primary School, large groups of children line up every morning for what becomes both breakfast and lunch. The meal usually includes corn meal, vegetables and soup.

The school food program began before the drought. But teachers say it has become increasingly important for the town’s struggling families. “It’s very hard for the parents to actually feed their children at home,” one teacher said.

In Kimberley, the capital of Northern Cape, government officials give out money from the $2-million disaster aid program. The job can be difficult because some farmers live in places that are not easy to get to.

Farmers Jan Louw and Martiens Tieties are among those hoping to receive government-provided animal feed. But they are not expecting any assistance until January. Until then, they plan to keep sharing feed with other farmers to keep their animals alive.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

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Words in This Story

drought - a long period of time during which there is very little or no rain

province – areas that some countries are divided into

faith n. complete trust or confidence in someone or something

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