Maputo — The rising food insecurity in Mozambique is heightening the risk of child labour, child trafficking and forced marriage as impoverished families adopt negative stress coping strategies.
Projections of yet another drought reignites past anecdotal evidence suggesting that children were engaging in sexual intercourse from ages as young as 11- or 12-years during drought, with older men engaging with girls aged 11 to 13 as they went about water collection activities.
These are some findings by the Technical Secretariat for Food and Nutrition Security (SETSAN) as children bear the brunt of successive droughts.
Drought continues to negatively impact children's well-being and their access to education, often leading to student absenteeism, poor concentration in class due to hunger and thirst, and ultimately contributing to a decrease in children's learning outcomes.
"Shortage of water leads to migration of the most vulnerable rural families and consequently their children drop out of school," SETSAN stated.
The most severe cases are in the provinces of Gaza, Inhambane and Sofala, where families are already adopting crisis and emergency strategies including selling of productive assets and animals and taking children out of school to perform household chores, including fetching water and begging.
Climatic predictions for the 2018-2019 rainfall season indicate normal to below normal rainfall for the southern and central regions and normal to above normal rainfall for the northern region, according to the National Institute for Meteorology (INAM).
The official El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forecast has put the El Niño likelihood at least 80 percent until March.
This poses a high risk for the cropping season, especially in already drought-affected southern parts of central regions of Mozambique.
It is feared households in affected areas would likely be forced to plant multiple times after repeated attempts, resulting in crop failures, as well as depletion of household seed stocks.
An estimated 814 700 people are facing the most severe levels of food insecurity and need life-saving assistance during the lean season. Cabo Delgado, Inhambane, Gaza, Sofala and Tete are the most affected provinces.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) stated agricultural production was likely to diminish, particularly in areas where there was a risk of low rainfall and likelihood of increased incidence of pests and diseases.
Successive droughts are a major setback to the Mozambican economy considering the rain-dependent agricultural sector accounts for around 25 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs nearly 75 percent of the labour force.
Mozambique's natural hazards are attributed to its geographical location.
It is downstream of nine international river basins and has a long Indian Ocean coastline with active cyclone activity. Drought occurs primarily in the southern region, with a frequency of seven droughts every ten years.