Climate change is forcing children into degrading work

Apr 16, 2021
15-year-old Cavo lives with her mother and grandmother in southern Angola. After three decades of civil war, the country is now experiencing the worst drought they’ve seen in 38 years, and it’s putting girls like Cavo at unacceptable risk.

Watch Cavo share her story in her own words:

I sleep with men because I have to support my mother. She is suffering because of hunger.
If men come, then I sleep with them. If I deny them, how will I survive?

The drought is affecting us a lot. Yesterday, we didn’t eat anything and today we had to wake up very early to collect some leaves we have grown. That’s what we’re eating today.

When a man wants ‘something’ everyone knows what the ‘something’ is. But, often they lie and end up giving you only 500 or 200 Kwanzas ($1.25 or $0.50 CAD). 

If it was not for the drought and hunger, I wouldn’t be here doing this. I’d be working and studying like other children.

But I stayed behind to support my mother and grandmother.

Cavo and dozens of other girls living in rural areas have resorted to sex work to survive the devasting impact of the drought. As food prices increase because of scarcity, more girls are turning to this type of work to feed their families.

This puts Cavo and girls like her at risk of getting pregnant or sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. However, she feels the burden of providing for her mother and grandmother, who has a disability and can’t work. She knows they won’t survive without this income. 

A young girl from Angola walks through her village with her back to the camera.15-year-old Cavo has resorted to sex work so she can feed her mother and grandmother in the aftermath of the worst drought her country has seen in 38 years. She wishes she could be at school or doing another job, but she says there's no other way to survive in their rural community. Photo: Brianna Piazza

It’s hard for many Canadians to fathom the kind of pressure that forces a 15-year-old girl into sex work, and feeling like she has no other choice to feed her family.

What’s this got to do with climate?

The Southern Africa region, where Angola is located, has been warming at about twice the global rate, much the way that Canada, too, is warming at twice the global rate

Insufficient and unpredictable rainfall has wiped out crops and livestock, leaving farming communities with little to no food to eat and even less to sell. 

Drought is projected to become more frequent and severe in the region, which will impact crop yields and increase hunger in the years to come, forcing many farming families to migrate in search of greener pastures. 
women and children in Angola gather water from a borehole drilled by World Vision.Women and children line up for hours—sometimes all day—to collect water from one of the boreholes that World Vision Angola has helped to reconstruct. Often staff need to dig even deeper to reach water, as the ground is so dry. Photo: Brianna Piazza

Climate scientists acknowledge extreme weather, increasingly fuelled by man-made climate change, will become more severe and frequent across Southern Africa. This year alone, the region has experienced unprecedented cyclones, floods and now drought.

More than 11 million people have been plunged into a hunger crisis across the Southern African region. 
Climate, conflict, and COVID-19 are proving to be a deadly combination, forcing millions of children and families to make impossible decisions to survive and setting back decades of progress toward achieving a safer, healthier, more equitable world. 

And the problem is only getting worse. Climate change is expected to push 100 million more people into poverty by 2030 according to the World Bank.

What is World Vision doing to respond?

World Vision is working to meet the immediate needs of children and families facing severe malnutrition with a ready-to-use therapeutic food called MANA provided by World Vision Canada partner, Food for Famine. 
We’re also working to help families cope with the changing climate in the long term by:
  • Training community health workers to support families and communities with sustainable nutrition training for mothers and to screen for malnutrition cases.
  • Establishing nutrition gardens and school feeding programs.
  • Providing access to clean water in communities by rehabilitating water access points and installing taps in schools and health facilities.
  • Training child protection volunteers in targeted locations and creating safe spaces for children and their caregivers.
You can help girls like Cavo who are abused or forced into sexual exploitation, with education, counselling, healthcare and more. Act now.

With files from Brianna Piazza, Eunice Lopes, and Maria Carolina da Silva.

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