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

Tuesday 19, Jul, 2016

El Niño is having a devastating impact on children in the Southern Africa region, forcing many into early marriage, child labour and dropping out of school, reveals a report by three leading aid agencies released today.

Findings by a Child Protection Rapid Assessment (or CPRA consortium comprising of World Vision, Unicef and Plan International) found that El Niño was severely impacting the lives of children and their futures. 

Entitled Regional Child Protection Rapid Assessment, the report was designed to explore the various ways children are impacted by slow-onset emergencies. The report, which is based on expert insight from nine countries in the Southern Africa region, shows that nearly 80 per cent of respondents of the CPRA survey agreed that the rate of school dropouts had increased since the start of El Niño phenomenon. Nearly 70 per cent of the respondents also reported an increase in incidents of child labour, with the most common forms of child labour cited as domestic work, followed by sexual transactions.

Tracy Shields, World Vision UK’s Senior Child Rights Programme Adviser, and one of the report’s authors, said: “Southern Africa has suffered the brunt of the worst of El Niño’s treatments that has seen long droughts, scorching temperatures, water shortages and flooding. While the effects of the strongest El Niño in 35 years are dissipating and scientists have declared it over, the sting in its tail are causes of a great worry. 

“The consequences stretch beyond hunger and food shortages with tens of thousands dropping out of school, migrating out of impoverished areas and facing separation families. Our report’s findings show that El Niño’s impacts are worsening the lives of children in a number of areas with any facing sexual exploitation, violence, child labour and psychosocial distress. We also know that 26 million children across Eastern and Southern Africa are at risk of malnutrition, water shortages and disease,” Shields who was recently in Malawi and South Africa explained.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC - the regional body comprising of 15 southern African states) has appealed for financial support and resources from the international community.  Overstretched humanitarian groups have also warned that the extreme conditions will last for much longer, with the UN’s World Food Programme saying 50 million people are expected by to need help with food supplies in the coming nine months.

For more information, pictures, case studies and interviews, please contact: 

Henry Makiwa | Media Manager | World Vision UK | E-mail: | Skype: Soshangana | Twitter: @makiwahenry