"People are suffering. We have come through the first months of the year, known as the 'hungry season,' only to find a harvest that is far below expectations. In desperation, many are now eating the seeds that were to be planted for the next harvest - which is still months away," said Dr. Idumbo Kasele, Catholic Relief Services' Agricultural Technical Advisor for the Southern Africa region, after returning from a visit to the drought-affected areas of western Zambia.
CRS is working through Caritas, local partners and other international humanitarian organizations to respond to the food shortages in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe and, hopefully, avert a famine in the region.
Catholic Relief Services Responds
CRS is responding to both the immediate and the long-term needs of those affected by the food shortage. Past activities and future program plans include the following:
Collaborated with a consortium of Private Voluntary Agencies in Malawi to prepare a coordinated Joint Emergency Food Security Program. Through this plan, CRS will work with partners in the Mzuzu and Zomba dioceses to distribute food to the most vulnerable, beginning in mid-July.
Responded immediately by giving over a million pounds of food to agencies positioned to respond right away to those in danger of severe malnutrition.
Supported an emergency food distribution with the Catholic Development Commission in the Zomba Diocese with over 330,000 pounds of maize flour.
Provided $50,000 to CADECOM in support of a Caritas Internationalis appeal to expand the food distributions in the Zomba Diocese.
Quickly created a $67,115 drought preparation plan to increase the country program's capacity to conduct emergency operations.
Designed, in cooperation with the Diocese of Livingstone, a Food-For-Work program that will meet immediate food needs while encouraging farmers to adopt drought-mitigating conservation farming methods.
Designed a drought mitigation and agricultural recovery project.
Is hosting a training in commodity management, logistics and Food-For-Work programming in the Shangombo District in July.
Will allocate $80,000 to support community mobilization activities that will support the Food-for-Work and agricultural recovery projects.
Conducted a seed distribution to 2,000 farmers in the Gokwe Diocese.
Undertook small-scale off-season agricultural projects for people infected with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers with an emphasis on appropriate nutrition.
Is currently developing several responses to the food shortage including a national supplementary emergency nutrition program, a food distribution, and an agricultural rehabilitation project. CRS staff have been visiting hospitals to learn more about how they treat malnourished individuals in preparation for future activities.
CRS has been working in Malawi since 1997 and maintains offices in both Lilongwe, Malawi's capital city, and a sub-office in Blantyre for the integrated food security program.
CRS has been working in Zambia since 1999 and has an office in Lusaka. It became a stand-alone country program in 2001 and has an office in Lusaka.
CRS arrived in Zimbabwe in 1989 to coordinate and direct responses to the development and emergency needs of the region. In its 12 years in Zimbabwe, CRS has also coordinated a variety of development and relief efforts for the diverse populations of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, and South Africa. CRS' main office is in Harare.