Caritas launches Zimbabwe appeal as 9 in 10 homes go hungry

Caritas Internationalis has launched a $7 million appeal for Zimbabwe to provide urgent humanitarian assistance for over a quarter of a million people facing hunger and death.

Caritas says there is an acute humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe with five million people out of a population of ten million reliant on food aid to survive.

A Cholera outbreak over the last five months has killed over 1,700 people with 36,000 cases reported.

Caritas will provide monthly food rations to 164,000 people, 88,800 school children with a midday meal at school, and farming training to 4,600 homes. Caritas will give 16,000 homes access to clean water and provide 5,000 people with basic health care.

Caritas Internationalis Secretary-General Lesley-Anne Knight said, "People will die in Zimbabwe unless they receive urgent humanitarian assistance. At least five million people need food aid but many more are going hungry. The high mortality from Cholera indicates an extreme international emergency.

"Caritas will provide food aid to a quarter of a million of the most vulnerable people through this appeal. We will also provide homes with clean water to prevent the spread of Cholera. The people of Zimbabwe desperately need our solidarity during this human tragedy."

A Caritas nationwide survey in October-November 2008 showed that between 70 and 90 percent of families are barely managing to feed themselves. The worst affected areas are Masvingo, Bulawayo and Hwange, followed by Gokwe, Mutare and Gweru, then Harare and Chinhoyi.

Only 5 to 10 percent are receiving food aid. Most are picking wild foods, selling their animals or household items, or carrying out sex work to survive.

Deaths from hunger have been reported and Caritas expects the situation to worsen as the hungry season peaks from January to March. Caritas has reported 200 cases of children fainting at school due to lack of food.

The Caritas appeal with target the most vulnerable people in Zimbabwe such as women- and child-headed households, children, the sick and the elderly.

Donations to the appeal can be made at www.caritas.org or through national Caritas members.

Contact Patrick Nicholson on 0039 334 359 0700 or nicholson@caritas.va