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Zambians in “dire need of help” Due to Prolonged Drought, Bishop Appeals

Dried up maize in a farm in Zambia, Church leader appealing for urgent humanitarian assistance

Following months of unpredictable rainfall and increased temperatures in Southern Africa including Zambia that have led to a drought described as one of the worst in decades, a Church leader in Zambia has appealed for help terming the situation in the landlocked country as serious.

“We have nothing. We are in dire need of help. The southern part of Zambia was our granary because people in the south were good farmers and were doing a lot but now the people are moving towards the North because there is nothing, it is dry,” the Chairman of Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) Bishop George Lungu of Chipata diocese told ACI Africa in an interview Thursday, November 21.

According to the Bishop, while  climate change is not something new to the country, drastic changes in the weather pattern has led to the current crisis where “animals are dying because of thirst; no water, people are going up and down looking for food.”

Zambia’s rich maize - growing southern area has been hit hard by the drought with the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) warning  that from October 2019 to March 2020, 2.3 million people (24% of the rural population) will be facing severe food insecurity, Associated Press reported.

In June this year, Zambian Bishops called on the country’s government to declare a hunger crisis, a call that Bishop Lungu says was not adhered to.

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“As a Church we had joined other voices asking government to declare it (hunger) as an emergency so that we unlock funds from outside and those that are willing to help us but the government refused to declare it as an emergency,” the Zambian Bishop lamented. 

To mitigate the suffering of the affected people, the Prelate said that the country’s Bishops, through their development arm, Caritas Zambia has “sent something to these places that are hit hard” even as the Church leaders await feedback from the various partners they have approached for help.

“We pray, but it is serious because when you have serious drought it takes a long time to recover,” the Prelate said.

He acknowledged the resourcefulness of his country but blamed poor planning for the drought crisis and probed, “In Zambia, for example, some places have much water but down south there is nothing. How do you explain this?”

He wondered why water that caused floods earlier in the year could not have been harvested and utilized now during the drought.

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“In the rainy season, we have plenty of water but months later nothing, so what is the problem? You can't blame God! These challenges should shake us up that time has come from our slumber. Move, plan, work together.” Bishop Lungu reflected.

The appeal for help by the Prelate comes days after the England and Wales’ Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD) appealed for humanitarian aid to help more than a third of Zimbabwe’s population which risks starving.

According to CAFOD, Cyclone Idai, which hit Southern Africa countries at the start of the year has contributed to the current food crisis as majority of the crops were destroyed, leaving families devastated as most of them rely on them to feed their families and are able to sell the surplus to cater for other needs.