, 22 February, 2020 / 3:43 AM
Almost a month after the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that a hunger crisis 'on scale we've not seen before' is looming in Southern Africa with 45 million people in need of urgent food aid, the global confederation of Catholic relief agencies, Caritas Internationalis, is helping, through its emergency programs, alleviate the hunger situation in Zambia and Zimbabwe, two of the most hard-hit countries.
Zambia, which is known to be a regional food basket is facing “one of its worst droughts in decades and 2.3 million people urgently need help.”
There, Caritas Internationalis is responding to the situation through a year-long emergency program run by the humanitarian and development arm of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), Caritas Zambia.
“Many families can’t even afford to eat one meal a day, crime has increased in affected areas and prices have also increased. Children are deeply affected as they either drop out of school to go and sell food for their families or they have poor concentration at school due to hunger. The lack of water has a triple effect on agriculture, health and nutrition,” Caritas Internationalis has stated.
According to the over 160-member confederation, “Not enough rain in the 2018-2019 period means that wells have dried up; families’ maize stores are empty and livestock have died in the south of the country.”
The emergency program is not only providing immediate relief, but is also helping in developing sustainable solutions to recurrent food challenges such as food insecurity.
“Caritas Zambia has been responding to the devastating effects of the drought by providing food to the affected communities,” Caritas Zambia Livelihoods and Climate Change Adaptation program specialist, Musamba Mubanga has been quoted as saying.
“We have also focused on providing solutions to water shortages in some areas,” Mr. Mubanga has said and added, “Furthermore, through the current emergency program Caritas Zambia will help affected communities address food insecurity and also focus on building their resilience to further droughts.”
Some of the activities in the emergency program include cash transfers so that vulnerable people can buy the food they need, establishment of village loan and savings groups so people can still afford food as prices rise, as well as supporting the creation of activities from which people can earn money.
The program also focuses on “boosting the nutrition of underweight children and ensuring communities understand the importance of good nutrition, especially in the young.”
Recognizing the need for more robust agricultural practices in the country whose 60 percent of the population rely on agriculture for their livelihood, the global relief body will facilitate gardening activities for nine thousand households, which will receive drought-resilient and early-maturing seeds and training on how to make their crops more resilient.
To help the communities cope with the impact of the drought and become resilient in the face of climate challenges, the 122-year-old confederation is appealing for Euro 745,000.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Zimbabwe, where on August 1, 2019 the government declared the food crisis “a state of National Disaster,” the Rome-based global relief agency is partnering with Caritas Zimbabwe and World Food Program (WFP) to distribute relief food to 300,000 drought-affected persons, through an emergency program dubbed Zimbabwe Drought Response.
According to a report by Vatican Radio, the relief confederation launched the emergency program last month after a request from the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCCB).
“At the local level, we have started to mobilize the faithful to support the survival of the vulnerable people; however, the magnitude of the problem has gone beyond our capacity to intervene,” Caritas Zimbabwe President, Archbishop Alex Thomas said in his appeal to Caritas Internationalis.
The Local Ordinary of Bulawayo Archdiocese had added, “Unless external assistance is given, this may lead to starvation...Therefore on behalf of the people and Bishops of Zimbabwe, I highly recommend this application for your positive consideration.”
“The Zimbabwe Drought Response appeal seeks to address the primary food insecurity problem facing rural communities in Zimbabwe,” Vatican Radio has reported and added, “The appeal is twofold: Contribute to reduction in current urgent food needs and promote future food security.”
Currently, the emergency program in the Southern Africa landlocked country is “feeding 17,000 vulnerable people in six most food insecure Dioceses of Hwange, Bulawayo, Gweru, Gokwe, Chinhoyi, and Masvingo.”
According to Vatican Radio, “Harare and Mutare Dioceses have been spared from the appeal because other funding partners have opted to have bi-literal agreements to support them.”
To mitigate the hunger crisis, Caritas Internationalis has expressed the need for USD 1,332,439.00 to be able to support the program for eight months ending September 2020.
Up to now, the appeal has received pledges from Caritas Japan, Caritas Australia and the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD).
Meanwhile, for four months ending April 2020, WFP is supporting Caritas Zimbabwe to feed 261,699 people in Gutu, Chivi, and Beitbridge districts in Masvingo diocese; Hwedza, Marondera, Chikomba, Murehwa districts in the Archdiocese of Harare; and Umzingwane and Matobo districts in the Archdiocese of Bulawayo.
Zambia and Zimbabwe are among four African countries that CAFOD earmarked for close humanitarian monitoring.
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