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Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops appeal for food aid for starving millions

In December 2019, the United Nations warned that Zimbabwe faces a “man-made” famine. Drought, hyperinflation, and poor economic and agricultural policies have transformed the once abundant “bread-basket” of Southern Africa into an arid wasteland. Nearly 8 million people will face severe food shortages this year. The Zimbabwean Catholic Bishop’s Conference has called for US$1 million to address the most severely-affected by the famine.

Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops have made an urgent appeal for food aid in cash or kind amid a food security crisis with nearly 8 million people facing starvation due to drought and the economic meltdown.

Addressing a press conference held at the Africa Synod House in Harare on February 27, 2020 Zimbabwe Catholic Bishop’s Conference (ZCBC) President Archbishop Robert Ndlovu confirmed the World Food Programme’s report that nearly 8 million people will be requiring aid in 2020 as the country faces severe food shortages.

Archbishop Ndlovu said the food insecurity situation is affecting not only rural but also urban people, school children, newly born babies and their mothers, as well as refugees.

“This food insecurity will affect urban and rural communities. Millions of school going children, refugees, and the poor will suffer from the severe effects of this drought.”

Millions of school going children, refugees, and the poor will suffer from the severe effects of this drought.

“Our health coordinators in our hospitals are telling us that some of the newly born babies instantly show signs of not being healthy. Their mothers too, because they may eat only once a day, may not produce enough breast milk for the babies and that will affect the development and growth of that child,” said Archbishop Ndlovu.

The bishops are targeting to raise over US$1 million dollars for the initial response programme which will be administered to “all people” through Caritas.

“Our appeal and response is on behalf of the people of every race, culture, gender and religion in Zimbabwe who are and will soon be in dire need.”

“Our goal is to mobilise sufficient food aid in order for us to make a difference to the lives of the many millions who face starvation, including children, women and those living with HIV/AIDS,” reads the statement.

The statement says that the response to this crisis will ‘reach out to the most vulnerable’ by providing basic commodities such as maize and mealie meal, cooking oil, beans and other nutritious foods.

Archbishop Robert Ndlovu (ZCBC President) presenting the conference’s emergency food aid appeal // Jesuit Communications Zimbabwe

Archbishop Ndlovu said through Caritas Appeal, the Church has already raised over US$200 000 and distributions in some areas have already started.

“Our goal is to mobilise sufficient food aid in order for us to make a difference to the lives of the many millions who face starvation.”

While many areas are affected by droughts and the economic meltdown, the people in areas such as Chipinge, Chimanimani and Buhera in the Diocese of Mutare are also suffering from the effects of Cyclone Idai that hit the country in March 2019.

Speaking at the press conference, Bishop Paul Horan O’Carm of Mutare Diocese said the Diocese through Caritas, Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP) and other arms, has made significant inroads in responding to Cyclone Idai induced circumstances but “more help is still needed” in areas such as Buhera.

He added that the Diocese is currently involved in the construction of about ‘333 houses in Buhera district where houses collapsed due to the amount of rain during the cyclone.’

While the Church responded immediately to the ‘cries of the people’ in the cyclone hit areas, the emphasis has now ‘moved on to restoration of income generating projects’ so beneficiaries are being supplied with seeds and fertilizers to get back on the road towards their own sustenance.

* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.