Tehandjila Quessale’s heart sank every time her mother sent her to fetch water for their crops, up in the mountains of Angola’s southern Huila region.
The 16-year-old had to leave school early and walk three hours to join a long queue of people at the nearest water point.
Since she rarely managed to fill her bucket before dark, she was vulnerable to attacks and was scared.
She knew of two girls that had been raped walking back to their village late at night, she said.
“I felt afraid because there were boys that used to attack or grab people,” Quessale told AFP.
Huila province has been hit by drought after lack of rain for several years running dried up most water sources and devastated crops across the southern Africa region, where some 45 million people face growing hunger, the United Nations warns.
The dry spell was followed by violent and erratic downpours that saturated the soil.
Quessale can now find water at a nearby spring, a short walk from the one- bedroom stone house she shares with her mother and six younger siblings in a hamlet.
But that has provided little relief after the family’s crops failed and food has remained difficult to come by.
In addition, most men from the area have migrated to towns and cities in search of work, so it is left to the women to try to fill their children’s rumbling stomachs.
Aid workers have said that some young girls are resorting to sex in a desperate quest for money and food.