More than 500,000 people in KwaZulu-Natal are facing hunger and increased risk of disease as a result of the continuing drought.
The NGO was distributing famine relief to keep people alive and children in school.
Its research showed that 500,000 people did not know where their next meal would come from as crops had failed.
Busisiwe Mseleku of Nkolokotho near Mtubatuba, northern KwaZulu-Natal, said the dry Mfolozi River had devastated the community.
“It is tough. Tap water comes just once in a day and not every day. We do not know when it will be available .”
” Kids have to get ready for school and there is no water for them to bath in. We also have to cook in the evening and it is impossible .”
Residents have to spend R40 to travel to and from Mtubatuba to buy 20 litres of water for R21.
“Going to town is a nightmare. Taxi drivers do not allow us to carry more than two containers. They say their job is to carry passengers not goods,” Mseleku said.
Residents use ash to purify water. “We get sick sometimes because the water is not clean, but we do not have a choice,” she said.
Barnard said children had sores and were frequently sick.
The diminishing water in the rivers was being shared by humans and animals.
She said young children who did not have clean water were at high risk of diarrhoea, which remains one of the biggest killers of children under five in the country.
World Vision said water tankers were not delivering water as frequently as a few months ago.
Pools of stagnant water forming where rivers once flowed were a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the bilharzia parasite.
The lack of water is also keeping children away from school.
In Umvoti near Greytown, pupils have to take water to school for use in the kitchen or bathroom or they are sent home. “Those who don’t bring water are sent back to fetch it”, community members said.
Barnard said girls who were menstruating skipped school because they did not have water to stay clean. The NGO was monitoring violence as vulnerable people could be at risk when people competed for water.
Lennox Mabaso, the KwaZulu-Natal co-operative governance spokesman, said: “This drought is very intense and widespread.
“Even areas that are affluent, where people have access to taps, now have to have tankers.”
As thousands starve in KwaZulu-Natal, the rest of the country can expect food prices to remain high thanks to the widespread drought.
White maize prices are about 60% higher than last year because of the weaker rand and too little rain in February, which resulted in a smaller crop. This means the price of pap, a staple for many, has increased.
Yellow maize, used for animal feed, is about 44% pricier than in October last year.
Consumers will pay more for meat, eggs and dairy products.
Grain SA CEO Jannie de Villiers said meteorologists have predicted a hot dry summer because of El Niño, which is associated with prolonged droughts.
Too little rain has prompted farmers on the eastern side of the country to delay planting yellow maize and soya, which is usually done in the middle of October.
If it does not rain in the next two weeks, it will be too late for Mpumalanga farmers to plant.
Farmers in the Free State and North West have until mid-December to plant white maize.
Macquarie Securities economist Elna Moolman predicted food inflation would climb 10% by the middle of next year.
David Orr, spokesman for the UN World Food Programme said: “There are currently 1.5million people in Zimbabwe who don’t know where their next meal is coming from and 3million food-insecure people in Malawi.”