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A family struggles as effects of El Nino impact daily life

Lotive is an SOS mother at the SOS Children's Village in Mbabane, Swaziland
Lotive is an SOS mother at the SOS Children's Village in Mbabane, Swaziland

Like many other mothers in Swaziland, SOS mother Lotive is struggling with the effects of a severe drought. Caused by El Nino, the drought has left the soil – and the people – across the country thirsty.

The price of commodities has skyrocketed as a result of the prolonged period without rainfall. Lotive is stocking up on any item she can get her hands on before winter approaches. Tonight, it will once again be a cabbage dinner for the SOS family of 11.

When Lotive opens the pantry, every shelf is filled with cabbage. She bought a new stock of cabbage today at the market for £0.50, a bargain compared to the £0.80 they cost yesterday. Lotive has to make every penny count – she has 11 mouths to feed. To get by, the family is rationing their food and water consumption.

Lotive is an SOS mother at our Children's Village in Mbabane – even our Villages are struggling with the effects of the severe drought caused by El Nino. This natural phenomenon causes the waters of the Pacific Ocean to heat up, a process which impacts weather patterns across the world. This effects of this occurance of El Nino have been even more extreme than usual. 

Running out of water

At 5am, Lotive goes outside to heat up the family’s bath water with an electric element. Nonhlanhla, 14, is in charge of filling the bath tub today. She goes outside to retrieves the warm water and fills the baths and basins in their two bathrooms.

Due to the drought, Swaziland is running low on water. The national electric company has not been able to provide power to the nation as a result. The company is importing a little electricity from neighbouring countries. The family homes at the Mbabane Village located in western Swaziland, have solar panels on each roof. However, with the winter season fast approaching, there is not enough sunlight to have hot water in the mornings.

“We have boreholes and several large water tanks in the Village, which SOS Children’s Villages installed when we realised we were heading for disaster. We collect extra water from a clean stream nearby,” says Lotive.

All areas of life are affected

To conserve water consumption, the SOS Village no longer washes down its pathways or waters the grass. SOS mothers are unable to grow their own vegetables, which would reduce their grocery costs, due to water conservation and no rainfall. The drought has also ended a poultry project at SOS Children’s Villages in Siteki, in eastern Swaziland, due to limited a water supple and inflated prices.  The Government of Swaziland is encouraging farmers to sell their livestock after cow carcases were lining the roads.

Mother in kitchen with children at Mbabane Village in Swaziland
Lotive cooks chicken in the kitchen with two of her SOS children

“I bought a 50 kilogram bag of maize yesterday for £21. A couple of months ago the same size bag would have only costed me £13. Actually, the brand that I used to purchase now costs £36, which I cannot afford,” explains Lotive.

Lotive says that she is thinking about cancelling their cable subscription to save £4.70 a month. Fortunately, her children understand that the situation is out of her control and do not put up a fuss. The family compromises on where they splurge their money. If the television stays on, then something else has to go.

Yesterday when Lotive returned from her daily grocery shopping, the children came over to apologise. She explains that the children accidently kicked a football into the new seedlings.

“The children realised that they did something bad and they apologised. A year or two ago that would have been children being children, but, now their actions have consequences and it’s a serious matter,” she says. 

Despite the challenges we are working hard to support families affected by El Nino. Donate today and help us to find practical solutions to help both local and SOS families thrive.