Childreach, part of Plan, one of the world's
largest development organizations focused on children, is helping famine-hit
communities in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia where programs have existed
for several years now. Childreach/Plan engages communities at the grass
roots level and has more than forty years experience with the poorest communities
in developing countries.
Plan staff fear that the food shortage will start to become critical by September. The organization's strategy is to try and avoid history repeating itself. It does not want to see another major famine hitting Africa because not enough was done to stop the situation before it was too late.
Childreach/Plan's primary approach is to help communities initiate and maintain development projects lasting up to a decade. The aim is to bring about the kind of security that can be sustained by the community after the project ends. However, because of its long-term connections to grass-roots organizations and intimate knowledge of local communities, Plan is also able to intervene and join other agencies with effective and well-targeted disaster relief when a major emergency arises.
In Malawi, Plan is helping the very poor districts of Lilongwe, Ksununga and Mzimba where more than half the children have stunted growth as a result of malnutrition. Plan is providing emergency food aid to more than 22 thousand of the most needy families. The charity monitors distribution to ensure that food does not go missing. The food is distributed directly to women and children to help guarantee that it goes into the homes and not the marketplace.
Plan's food-security strategy is ongoing and long-term, even while the immediate concern is feeding the hungry.
Part of this strategy is to introduce new high-yield crops such as soy beans, fruit and vegetables as well as high yielding varieties of maize and peanuts. Strategies include introducing water conservation techniques to help extend the water supply during the drought season. Plan also encourages families to raise animals and it has brought in grain mills and seed presses to help families improve their income.
In Malawi there are 17,403 sponsored children. In 2001
- 4,360 families were provided with seed and fertilizer
- 1,413 families were provided with livestock and training
- 3,445 families benefited from the construction of a new borewell
To contribute to Plan's efforts to combat the food crisis in Malawi, please visit our Make a Donation page to make a secure on-line donation.
Plan supports poor communities, most of which live on land with irregular rainfall, in seven districts of South-east Zimbabwe. With a current caseload of 51,000 supported families and an additional 25,000 families also receiving the benefits of the community development projects, Plan is one of the biggest child centred development organisations operating in the country.
Plan Zimbabwe is running a temporary relief programme to save the more than 70,000 high-risk families from starvation. Over the next six months the organisation will purchase and distribute up to 20,000 ton of maize meal in addition to other supplementary food. Each family will receive 50 kilos of maize and two kilos of kapenta fish per month. The agency will also give rations of groundnuts and cooking oil to those most at risk of starvation.
As well as existing supported families, Plan will be targeting orphans and families caring for them, disabled and elderly people, pregnant and breast-feeding women, as well as destitute people.
At the same time Plan has been conducting long-term sustainable food security projects that will help communities in Zimbabwe achieve self-sufficiency. These projects are designed to protect countries from future food crises such as the current one.
In Zimbabwe there are 54,403 sponsored children. In 2001 -
- 1,198 children participated in supplementary feeding programs
- 38,993 families received seeds for planting
- 8,646 families received livestock/poultry training
- 7,531 families received fruit tree seedlings
- 1,197 families received livestock/poultry
In Zambia, Plan calculates that the population of the Mazabuka and Chadiza districts, where the charity works, will need emergency food relief to survive the next nine months. With maize harvests down by as much as two thirds, Plan field staff report that many families are selling whatever assets they have left and abandoning their plots in search of low-paid work on coffee plantations or commercial farms.
Plan has found that female and child-headed households are surviving on a meal every two days or depending on handouts from friends and relatives. Children are dropping out of school because their families have no money for school fees or they have to go in search of food.
Teenagers in Salati village in Zambia's Chadiza district can no longer attend lessons. "There is no way I can go to school when I have not eaten anything and have no hope of finding anything to eat in the next few days," says one of them.
In Zambia, Plan has been helping local people to plant and raise fast-growing food crops. One scheme provides participating farmers with loans of a fast-growing, high-yield variety of peanut seeds. Compared with local varieties, the crop matures early and is easy to harvest. To date participating farmers have had very successful harvests and the 20 kilos of seed they must repay will be loaned to more farmers. This low-cost scheme is set to help more and more families back to self-sufficiency as well as to provide protein-rich food for hungry children.
In Chadiza the charity will be giving small irrigation hand-pumps to local farmers so that they can plant vegetables and winter maize. This will allow them to grow crops they would not normally be able to raise, providing food as well as a cash income. In Mazabuka, Plan is introducing an animal re-stocking programme to help farmers replace herds that have been lost to disease.
In Zambia there are 12,650 sponsored children. In 2001 -
- 2,388 families benefited from borewell drilling and installation of hand pumps
- 110 families were trained in tree-planting
- 1,265 families benefited from the construction of grain mills