Mafios Ganyari tills a dry, patch of land, coaxing a few thin cassava tubers from the soil. This year’s harvest has been poor. Mafios has barely enough to feed his family.
Farmers across Zimbabwe have lost cattle and crops and fear more pain as the year progresses.
“Three or four months to come, if nothing is taken as an assistance then surely it means people are going to die. You will hear the stories of dying here and there,” he said.
Southern Africa has been hard hit over the past year by drought exacerbated by El Niño, a warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has said up to 4.5 million people, half of Zimbabwe’s drought-stricken rural population, will need aid by next March.
Child hunger and deaths are rising according to Save the Children.
“If they don’t get aid as quickly as possible these people may end up dying or maybe malnourishment will increase to their children or they will even starve to death. So it is a matter of life and death for them,” said Paidamoyo Madimutsa, a social worker in Mbire District in central Zimbabwe.
The impact of the drought is particularly serious for Zimbabwe, where the economy has been struggling for five years to recover from a catastrophic recession that was marked by billion percent hyperinflation and widespread food shortages.
In rural areas, finding clean water has also become difficult as water sources dry up. Women and children are bearing the brunt of the crisis.
“Sometimes when we take this water home, children get so sick from this water. We try and boil it before we drink,” said Violet Jeremiah, a Mbire resident.
Zimbabwe has appealed for 1.6 billion U.S. dollars in aid to help pay for grain and other food.