When rivers dry out: Patuma’s story

Patuma Jimu (70) lives in the village of Balakasi, near Mangochi, in Malawi’s Southern Region. She has lost her husband and daughter to HIV and AIDS and two other daughters to malaria, and now lives with another daughter and two grandchildren. Since her husband died a few years ago, she has had no income and has lived from the meagre yields of her garden and the generosity of her neighbours. The drought has decimated crop yields in the area and staple foods are in short supply. She regularly goes hungry (Victor Lacken / IFRC).
Patuma shows the leftover skins of the mangos she cooked for a meal. Severe drought has led to crop failure throughout the region and mangoes are the only local fruit that is in season this time of year around Patuma’s village. The lack or staple foods has forced her to rely increasingly on mangoes for food, but the mangoes are running out and Patuma and her family are now becoming dependent on food aid from the Malawi Red Cross (Victor Lacken / IFRC).
Patuma waters the sweet potato plot in her garden. Her family will rely on mangoes and the sweet potatoes from this garden until she gets food aid from the Malawi Red Cross who have initiated a food distribution programme in her area as a result of the drought that has decimated crops (Victor Lacken / IFRC).
Farmers have ploughed their fields near Mangochi, in Malawi’s Southern Region, in anticipation of the coming rains which are expected soon. Malawi is currently experiencing its worst drought for thirty years after insufficient rains in 2016 caused crops throughout the country to fail, pushing millions of people towards food insecurity (Victor Lacken / IFRC).
Patuma carries water from the pump to her home in the village of Balakasi, near Mangochi, in Malawi’s Southern Region. Some 6.5 million people throughout Malawi are currently food insecure due to the severe drought that has affected almost the entire southern Africa region. The ability of rural households to cope with the effects of the drought are increasingly limited and often exhausted as malnutrition levels rise (Victor Lacken / IFRC).
A dried riverbed near the town of Mangochi in Malawi’s Southern Region. The coming rainy season should replenish the region’s rivers and provide much-needed water for agricultural land. But Malawi is prone to harsh weather extremes and before the drought of 2016 it suffered the effects of severe flooding in 2015, both of which events led to the poor crop yields (Victor Lacken / IFRC).