In a parched Zimbabwe village, almost every family is in need

By Rainer Lang, Action by Churches Together
Baseru, Zimbabwe, November 18, 2002 -- It is early in the morning and Jacob and Patricia Magarire and their ten-month-old baby still have five miles to go. They are heading toward Basera in order to get some food.

Hundreds of people have gathered in this village in Zimbabwe's Gutu province because a local aid organization, Christian Care of Zimbabwe, is registering villagers for food distribution. (Christian Care is a member of ACT, the global alliance of churches and agencies including Lutheran World Relief that work in the field of humanitarian relief.)

The distribution serves 40,000 people plus supplementary feeding for 13,500 children under five years old. People are registered according to their needs. "The level of poverty is the main criteria we use," says Courage Chirobe of Christian Care. "Also female or child-headed households are considered first." [For photos from this story, visit <www.lwr.org/news>.]

First village leaders and then everyone is told that anyone who qualifies according to the needs assessment is entitled to food, regardless of political affiliation, gender or religion.

For the Magarire family and the hundreds of other villagers here, the hope of food now lies with Christian Care. The drought that has gripped this part of the country for months has wiped out jobs and harvests. "Nobody needs my services at the moment," says Jacob Magarire, a 29-year-old blacksmith. His family harvested nothing last year and all the maize, groundnuts and sorghum that he and his wife had planted on their piece of land was lost, he explains.

Anna Zindonga, who is also standing in the registration queue, did some dry planting the previous day. "I am just trying anything," says Anna, who has four children. Her husband works in the city of Bulawayo. During a good rainy seasons, she usually harvests two bags of maize, enough to see her through to the next season. Now she has to beg food from her neighbors.

Another couple Sokai and Janet Shoko say they have no more food. Until recently they could buy from the shops, "if there was anything", says Sokai. But now they have run out of money and have had nothing to eat for the last two days.

Christian Care's area manager, Joseph Goko, says that it has now become difficult to define the needy ones. "Almost every family here is in need of food," he says. "The only solution is food aid." Without rain, the food crisis in Zimbabwe will deteriorate rapidly, he says. Although the crisis is not as visible here as in countries like Ethiopia, he worries that it will be too late for many people when the world finally realizes the extent of the emergency.

"More funding," says Christian Care's Courage Chisobe, "would allow us to extend the number of people who will benefit from food relief." Food distribution started here in early November.

(Lutheran World Relief is currently assisting with drought and hunger relief work with partner organizations in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea. A growing food crisis in southern Africa and the Horn of Africa is putting an estimated 28 million people at risk, based on United Nations and partner agency estimates.)

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Baltimore, MD 21298-9832

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