Lubango, Angola               -              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. 16-year-old had to leave school early and walk three hours to join a long queue of people at the nearest water point. 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. - ‘I do my own thing’ - “Climate change has a huge impact on the lives of women, espe­cially women and girls of re­productive health age,” said Florbela Fernandes, Angola representative for the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Crises caused by extreme weather events dispropor­tionately affect “vulnerable groups”. “It also increases their exposure to violence and abuse,” she added. Wom­en make up 80 percent of the people displaced by climate change, according to the UN. Quessale’s 47-year-old mother Mousaka Fernanda has stayed put but has had to shoulder the responsibil­ity of feeding her family on her own as best she could. Last year, her husband found a job as a security guard in Lubango city, around 20 ki­lometres (12 miles) away, but barely sends any money. “When he comes home he finds hunger... and I do my own thing,” said Fernanda, feet sinking into the mud as she pulled weeds from her maize field. The little she had to show of her plants were knee-high and wilted. Yellowed leaf tips suggested roots were rotting below the surface. “The children are not crying for their father,” Fer­nanda added, as she pulled up a maize shoot to reveal a dying jumble of radicles. “They are crying for their mother to find something to eat.” - Early marriage - Since the drought hit, Fernanda has relied on her home-brewed liquor to buy food. The matri­arch’s grandfather taught her to brew sorghum into macau, a popular spirit she makes and sells on weekendsFrom two cups of macau, Fer­nanda can buy just over one kilogramme (2.2 pounds) of staple maize. With barely enough for her and her chil­dren, she also has to provide for her own mother who is too weak to fend for herself.