PACT and FACT team members discussing with young women during a CCVA Focus Group Discussion in Mutare.
Climate change is not only causing a disruption in nature but also affecting the lives of many people around the world. There is a growing risk of vulnerability to climate change which is most likely to affect poor people, particularly children infected or affected by HIV and their families.
The levels of vulnerability differ for people in rural areas compared to people in urban areas. Climate change tends to widen the already existing inequalities in society.
Together with our technical partner in the SPACE for OVC program, Pact we conducted Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments through participatory Focus Group Discussions and Key Informant interviews in Mutare, Chipinge and Makoni districts.
The discussions assessed how climate change is affecting caregivers, children and youth living with HIV and adaptive strategies they have adopted or think would be best to adopt to mitigate the effects of climate change.
Results from interactions with caregivers and youths showed that climate change effects like floods, cyclones, heatwaves, and droughts have disturbed their daily activities, affecting their health, safety, education and stability.
Participants highlighted that Cyclones, and the fear of impending cyclones are causing stress thus impacting their mental health which leads to an increase in viral load for those on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).
Droughts have also driven most families into hunger and malnutrition, thereby affecting adherence to and efficacy of ART in Children Living with HIV (CALHIV). These droughts along with prolonged heat waves negatively impact access to potable water, increasing water-borne diseases.
Idleness caused by school closures during the cyclones was said to have also resulted in an increase in substance abuse by young people.
Cyclones impact children’s ability to access schools due to flooded rivers, bridges being washed away and sometimes schools being forced to close during these occurrences which affect children’s education.
Water shortages have seen many families travel to further water sources and take more time in queues. In most cases, children are expected to go and fetch water which affects their school attendance as they may have to attend class late or not attend at all as they are trying to get water for the family.
Hunger as a result of droughts and lost harvests/income negatively affects the children’s participation in their education and would at times have to be absent because of the lack of food.
Participants highlighted cyclones as affecting their livelihoods. Most people are self-employed; they depend on vending for survival hence cyclones destroy marketplaces while new marketplaces assigned to them may be further away and constant shifting results in loss of income.
Heat waves also impact Income Generating Activities (IGAs), especially for those who trade in perishables based on perishable goods. This has affected the ability of families to have disposable income to cater for their day-to-day needs.
Prolonged droughts were said to also cause people to sell off livestock earlier at lower prices as the livestock would be prone to starvation and diseases.
Furthermore, the participants said climate change occurrences have become a threat to their access to shelter, a basic need. Storms, cyclones and floods destroy infrastructure, including houses and schools. This has left many homeless, some have been relocated to other places which affect their stability.
Due to drought-driven hunger, women and children especially girls find themselves engaging in transactional sex for survival. This hunger has also seen an increase in child marriages particularly for families that are closer to transport hubs and border towns.
Most Parents have resolved in migrating to Mozambique, South Africa, and Botswana in search of better income, resulting in neglect and abandonment of children and adolescents whose safety becomes at risk.
Children are impacted by drought more in rural areas, as they must travel farther to fetch water, and spend more time waiting at water points, exposing them to physical and sexual abuse.
During cyclones schools are closed, forcing children to stay home where they become exposed to sexual abuse or incest.
A group of caregivers sharing their ideas during a CCVA Focus Group Discussion in Mutare.
Having highlighted the effects climate change has on them, the participants also shared the adaptation measures they have employed to reduce the effects of climate change.
To mitigate the effects of climate change affecting agriculture, the participants said they have resorted to farming drought-resistant crops, food rationing and bulk food storage to help in times of hunger.
Some have resolved to use cookstoves to minimise the time children have to spend looking for firewood to cook.
Participants said they have also adopted rainwater harvesting as a way of ensuring they have enough water to last them for a long while and minimise the time children have to spend searching for water.
Irrigation farming has also become one of the adaptation measures that participants have taken to mitigate the effects of droughts.
To ensure children are not idle, they have also ensured that the children attend online lessons or radio lessons and not be left behind in their schoolwork. This, however, is still a challenge for rural children who do not have access to smart mobile phones and data to engage in online lessons.
The CCVA showed that there is a need for collaborative efforts to accelerate assistance in terms of advancing adaptation measures to ensure that OVC and their families do not fall victim to climate change and remain resilient.