The convergence of a number of factors in Southern Africa has resulted in a severe food shortage in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Millions of people are at risk of starvation, with children and persons with HIV/AIDS being especially vulnerable. Floods, drought, economic decline, lack of food stockpiles and regional political instability have contributed to a situation that is only expected to worsen over the next few months. Already, Malawi and Zimbabwe have declared a state of disaster.
"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 some 10 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 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. Activities to date include the following:
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.
Collaborated with a consortium of Private Voluntary Agencies in Malawi to prepare a coordinated a Joint Emergency Food Security Program. In this plan, CRS intends to work with partners in the Mzuzu and Zomba dioceses to distribute food to the most vulnerable.
Quickly stepped up the country program's capacity to conduct emergency operations with the recently submitted $67,115 Drought Preparation Proposal.
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.
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.
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.