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Follow the Hashtag

#OperationHydrate delivers water to drought victims in South Africa

What started out as a social media effort to deliver water to a few townships in South Africa has transformed into a nationwide effort to bring large quantities of water to those in drought-striken areas.

2015 was reported to be the driest year on record for South Africa, with meteorologists predicting that the dry conditions will continue because of this year's El Nino. Some municipalities in the country's Free State province have run out of water while others are unable to meet demand. Farmers are especially struggling as livestock are dying off without regular access to clean water.

In a move to try and deliver water to the most-affected areas, a group of activists launched Operation Hydrate Initiative SA. The goal was to use social media to get people to donate water and for businesses to donate transport for the water to those who need it.

The group announced Friday that they have been able to deliver two million liters of water. Much of the water has come from donations from large corporations including Shoprite, Volkswagen SA and Mango Airlines.

But everyday citizens are also pitching in. Many are filling any container they can find around the house and bringing them to established collection centers.

"Dozens of trucks are loaded with bottled water and are taking to the roads this afternoon and early tomorrow morning," said Operation Hydrate's Yaseen Theba in a Facebook statement on January 15.

"Some 800,000 liters is destined for various affected areas in the Free State and 400,000 liters is going to the North West. We have already distributed some 800,000 liters since our launch," said Theba.

Along with the outpouring of support from companies and everyday citizens has also come heated criticism of the government's failure to provide sufficient water to its people. Many are also saying that the government failed to have contingency plans in place to deal with the drought.

The production of maize, a staple crop in South Africa has fallen dramatically because of the drought. Economists are warning that there will be food shortages leading to a rise in prices for consumers.

"Drought is an absolute priority for us," said Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan at a press briefing this week. Aside from the drought, there are growing concerns that the drought may push the country into recession.

Gordhan added that South Africa's economy will not slip into recession.

"We are growing as an economy, we are not going into a recession. But we are not growing fast enough," Gordhan told a media briefing after a cabinet meeting.

Politics aside, Operation Hydrate plans to continue their efforts for as long as is needed and thanked all of their supporters who "show the spirit of Ubuntu (Nguni Bantu term meaning "human kindness') and the generosity we have as South Africans."

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