CRS food relief reaches sick and malnourished in Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe, October 29, 2002 - Responding to the severe food crisis that has threatened millions in Zimbabwe with malnutrition and starvation, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is providing direct food assistance in 20 of the country's rural hospitals and reaching an estimated 150,000 people.
"We are witnessing one of the most urgent humanitarian crises in Africa's history, and it is hitting hardest in Zimbabwe," said Paul Macek, CRS Regional Emergency Representative for southern Africa. "We are expanding our programming - which has already been functioning at emergency status - to assist the greatest number of people possible from the most vulnerable populations."

Approximately 14.4 million people throughout southern Africa are facing food shortages that could result in widespread starvation, malnutrition and disease. Of that total, nearly half of the at-risk population is in Zimbabwe. The country is also suffering from a critically high infection rate of HIV/AIDS, as one out of four adults in Zimbabwe lives with the disease.

In cooperation with its local partner, the Zimbabwe Association of Church-Related Hospitals (ZACH), CRS has begun distributions of corn soya blend on a daily basis to complement in- and out-patient care. The feeding program is targeted to those in rural districts where acute and chronic malnutrition levels are high and where forecasts for rainfall and crop production are poor. The hospitals are located in 14 districts in the Manicaland, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and Masvingo Provinces.

The ongoing food crisis - resulting from a combination of factors including severe drought and poor crop production - is unprecedented in severity because of its occurrence during an HIV/AIDS pandemic that has infected more than 20 percent of adults in the region.

Macek noted that even in years of normal rainfall, crop production has suffered due to the number of HIV-positive adults who are too ill to carry out the hard labor required for subsistence farming. "In times of crisis, resources strain as poor communities are expected to care for rising numbers of sick people while facing an acute lack of resources," Macek said. "As a result, the sick receive less care and are more vulnerable to the effects of the disease resulting from malnourishment."

The ZACH institutions are located in every province of Zimbabwe, with all but five in rural areas. ZACH hospitals account for 45 percent of all hospital beds in the country and 68 percent of all rural hospital beds.

CRS began working in Zimbabwe in 1989, helping to coordinate and direct responses to development and emergency needs throughout the region. CRS participates in the World Food Program's food distribution network in Zimbabwe and throughout southern Africa and is one of the lead agencies, along with CARE and World Vision, of a consortium of American private voluntary organizations distributing a total of 185,000 metric tons of food in the region through September 2003.

CRS Executive Director Ken Hackett, along with a delegation of U.S. bishops, is currently traveling in Zimbabwe to increase solidarity and promote awareness of the current challenges Zimbabweans, and others in southern Africa are facing.

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the U.S. Catholic community. The agency provides assistance to people in more than 87 countries and territories on the basis of need, not race, creed or nationality.

To contribute to Catholic Relief Services' efforts, send donations to:

Catholic Relief Services
"Southern Africa Food Crisis"
P.O. Box 17090
Baltimore, MD 21203-7090


Holli Burge
(410) 951-7236
Jennifer Lindsey
(410) 951-7350

For more information about Catholic Relief Services and our programs around the world, visit our website at www.catholicrelief.org.