, 11 January, 2020 / 2:48 AM
A month after the UN relief chief Mark Lowcock revealed that an estimated 168 million people across the globe will need humanitarian aid in 2020, the highest number in decades, four African countries are among eight nations that the UK-based Catholic Agency For Overseas Development (CAFOD) has earmarked for close humanitarian monitoring.
In a report titled “The humanitarian challenges that lie ahead in 2020” published Wednesday, January 8, CAFOD has identified Zimbabwe, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan among the countries that will require humanitarian interventions this year due to a variety of challenges, including effects of climate change and civil conflict.
In the landlocked Southern Africa nation of Zimbabwe, the development and humanitarian arm of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales has warned that “millions face hunger on a massive scale in 2020” due to food crisis.
CAFOD’s Country Representative in Zimbabwe, Verity Johnson, was previously quoted as attributing the food crisis to economic hurdles, climate change and Cyclone Idai.
In neighboring Zambia, also landlocked, the irregular rains and intense dry periods have left the country struggling with “its worst drought and food shortage in a decade.”
The World Food Programme (WFP) predicted that by March 2020, the number of people facing hunger in the country will have risen to 2.3 million.
“People have run out of ways to cope, and are forced to survive on wild fruits and leaves. In some cases this causes diarrhea for vulnerable under-fives and the elderly,” CAFOD’s Country Representative in Zambia, Mwila Mulumbi has been quoted as saying.
"Low water levels in major rivers, and increased extraction of groundwater, mean that people will not only have less clean water to drink, but face losing their livestock, a situation compounded by an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease," Mulumbi has added.
The situation has attracted the attention of Zambia Catholic Bishops' Conference (ZCBC) with the Bishop at the helm of Caritas Zambia, Evans Chinyemba warning, "If nothing is urgently done, we may begin to experience deaths from hunger.”
DRC, which is fighting to contain the second-biggest Ebola epidemic ever recorded, CAFOD maintains that more work needs to be done to end the spread of the virus, which has so far claimed 2,228 lives since its outbreak in August 2018.
The UK-based charity body has acknowledged the input of the Catholic Church in the Central African nation for being on “the frontline of this crisis playing a critical role in dispelling myths and making sure that communities receive the hygiene information to prevent the further spread of the disease.”
“The work of local aid agencies will be essential,” CAFOD Director in DRC, Christine Allen, said during a 2019 visit to the country and added in reference to aid agencies responding to Ebola crisis in DRC, “We must make sure that they receive the funding needed to respond in their communities, where they are dispelling myths and making sure people understand how the Ebola virus is transmitted, how it is treated and how to prevent infection.”
Meanwhile, South Sudan has remained a volatile country as the six-year old civil war rages on despite the African Union’s (AU) goal to end all forms of violence and conflict on the continent by the end of 2020 through its Silencing the Guns initiative.
Since December 2013 when the war broke out in the world’s youngest nation, 400,000 people have lost their lives and more than 3.6 million people displaced, a situation that has seen CAFOD call for immediate peace to “end fighting and hunger” facing more than 6 million people.
Other countries that CAFOD will be monitoring closely in 2020 include Syria where fighting has entered its tenth year and Yemen where the aid agency has termed the four-year old civil war as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
The development and humanitarian agency will also be monitoring Myanmar because of the Rohingya Muslim crisis and Venezuela for the economic and political crisis. The Central American region will be on CAFOD’s watchlist for climate crisis and poverty.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa