Zambia

The hidden suffering of Zambia

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Suzannah Marsh reports from Zambia for the Bristol Evening Post.
I've made my first trip into the ''field'' to see first-hand some of the relief work that CARE International Zambia is doing in the south of the country, where thousands of people rely on food aid.

Livingstone (named after Dr Livingstone, I presume...) is the tourist capital of Zambia, just a few kilometres from the stunning Victoria Falls.

This is the huge waterfall, bigger than Niagara, that's known as Mosio-Tunya ("the smoke that thunders'') in the local language.

Here tourists from around the world gaze in wonder at the falls, see the only rhinos in Zambia at the game park nearby and cruise down the Zambezi at sunset.

But in the rural areas around the city, life is very different.

This area has been badly affected by the droughts and thousands of people are relying on relief maize handed out by CARE and the few vegetables they can grow in the dry conditions.

This year's crop is wilting in the field and the food stored from last year has run out.

The next harvest is due in March/April, so this is the hungriest time of the year. And with erratic rains so far, it's not yet clear how good this year's harvest will be.

Touring villages with one of CARE's food monitors, I met people who told me they ate only once a day.

Many have resorted to eating wild vegetables, but even these are scarce because of the lack of rain. I met parents who told me their children cry with hunger and mothers who said they often go without so their babies can eat.

If it were not for relief food, these people would be in a dire situation.

As well as distributing food, CARE runs agricultural programmes including training for livestock owners on how to treat the diseases that wiped out most of the cattle here a couple of years ago.

There's also a milk project where dairy farmers are assured of a reasonable price and a regular income.

Without obvious signs of actual famine such as wide-eyed children with distended bellies, many visitors to Livingstone wouldn't recognise the problems.

People may not be starving but this is still a food crisis. It just goes to show that some of the most beautiful places on earth can be host to some of the greatest hardship, and the toughest people.