Choosing who lives and dies in Southern Africa food shortage
JOHANNESBURG (Sept. 4, 2002) - It's an awful burden. Aid agencies distribute food to millions of people facing starvation in Southern Africa. Yet, there is not enough food for everyone who needs it, so communities must decide who amongst them gets fed.
"We really have to choose the weakest persons and it is not easy, because so many of us are hungry," said Chief Sinsamala in Malawi, where 3 million people need food.
The village of Kalolo has 61 families, many of whom lack food. So far, enough aid has been donated to feed only eight families.
"The hardest task is to explain to people who are hungry and don't have anything left why they don't get food aid," said Chief Sinsamala, of Kalolo. "I call the whole village together and ask the ones who can read to explain the regulations for distributing the food. We put the names of those we have chosen to receive aid on a piece of paper on a tree so everybody can see that yes, indeed, these are the people that are worst off. People understand, but still, it is not easy."
More than 13 million people in seven countries are facing famine, and the numbers are expected to rise. The food supply will be short through the next harvest, in March. Aid agencies are assisting communities in Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
While the United States and other countries are sending food, donations fall far short of what is needed. Roughly one-half of the necessary food has been pledged and only one-third has actually been provided. The crisis would be ended with less than 50 cents per person of the world's 10 richest countries.
"The international community underestimates the problem," said Chris Conrad, director for Southern and West Africa, CARE. "Aid agencies are doing all that we can, given the resources we have, but it isn't enough. More donor support is needed immediately. We shouldn't wait until we see people dying in large numbers."
In Angola, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe, CARE is delivering food and working with communities on longer-term solutions, such as planting drought-tolerant crops, like cassava; building dams to irrigate crops; and helping women form groups to pool money and grant one another loans, to buy maize, fertilizer and livestock.
Additional information on CARE's response is available at: http://www.careusa.org/newsroom/specialreports/southernafrica/index.asp