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Zimbabwe: As the country’s crops fail due to drought, Bishops appeal for help

Catholic Bishops in Zimbabwe appeal to Catholic Agencies to serve people from starvation after the country’s president declared the 2023/2024 agricultural season a national disaster.

Brother Alfonce Kugwa – Gweru.

Following the declaration of the 2023/2024 agricultural season as a national disaster by the President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, on 2 April, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference has made a follow-up with a Pastoral Statement, highlighting that the country is faced with a devastating drought whose impact on the lives of the poor and many in rural areas will be unbearable.

This means that there is severe food insecurity in the whole country and that the government and all its stakeholders have to act to avoid starvation and deaths as a result of prolonged hunger.

El Nino-induced drought

The Bishops highlighted that the El Nino-induced drought has struck an already suffering people due to many other reasons which include difficult economic conditions, poverty and unemployment among the youth.

 “The much talked-about climate change has once again shown its ugly face. The consequences of any drought are dire, but when it hits people who are already struggling, the devastation is beyond any imagination. Most people in rural areas who practice subsistence farming have lost their very lifeline. The dry pasture conditions will negatively impact the rural cattle herd. As a nation, we are faced with a threat to our livelihoods and food insecurity,” said the Bishops in the pastoral statement.

The Bishops further called upon all men and women of good will to put resources together to support those in extreme conditions. They emphasised that everyone has an obligation to care for those in need.

“Ours is a plea to all Catholics, men and women of good will, humanitarian institutions and agencies that we put our resources together and avert the many deaths that may be caused by the drought. We all have a duty and an obligation to care for those in need, more so those who are left exposed by the effects of the drought. Now is the time for us to rise and meet the challenge. Together we are stronger and can feed the multitudes. When the little that we have is generously put at the hands of the Lord, he multiplies it, and all will have their fill,” stated the Catholic Bishops.

Do not politicize matters of food

The prelates discouraged the politicization of food at all levels stressing that the poor are often abused because of want.

“Hunger knows no political divisions; it’s the citizens of this country who are in need. In the same vein, we would like to appeal to those who may want to take advantage of the situation to make a profit, that this is not the time,” they stressed.

However Catholic humanitarian agencies such as Caritas have started mobilizing resources to mitigate the crisis. Although the Commission has been doing a lot in different dioceses, Caritas through its different structures has scaled up its operations to attend to the disaster.

Caritas Hwange to conduct assessment

Caritas Coordinator for Hwange Diocese, Mr. Super Dube said they have started approaching different funding partners for support to mobilize resources to acquire food for distribution to the communities.

“Food, preferably mealie meal, sugar beans, and vegetable oil will be distributed to households on a monthly basis. School feeding program will be soon introduced in schools. Recovery in the form of seed distribution will also form part of the program,” said Dube.

Dube said Caritas will conduct its assessment to determine the most affected communities and households and will collaborate with other stakeholders to cover the neediest and to avoid double dipping.

He noted that Caritas Hwange was drilling and rehabilitating boreholes and establishing nutrition gardens to alleviate the drought. He further said the majority of those targeted ere women who were producing food to feed their families. Dube also said if resources become available, female-headed households, widows and children will be prioritised to make sure that no one dies of hunger.

Fish farming: responding to the El Nino-induced drought in Zimbabwe

Fish farming: responding to the El Nino-induced drought in Zimbabwe

Caritas Chinhoyi scales-up interventions

In Chinhoyi’s Mbire District, Caritas was feeding 506 people with maize, cooking oil, and sugar beans while they were also provided with soap and buckets to reduce the effects of cholera. 1000 school children in two schools were being fed with CSB porridge in the same district.

Corn soy blend (CSB) is one of the most common fortified blended foods. It is made from a blend of maize and soya beans with added vitamins and minerals.

Chinhoyi Diocese Caritas Coordinator, Fr. Johannes Zevhito, said Caritas was supporting people through livelihood projects such as fish farming, at Nyamuwe Garden in Ward 2 and nutritional gardens to reduce the effects of drought. He said his organization has installed solar water pumps to enable small-scale irrigation in different institutions such as schools and clinics while he said the construction of Chapinduka and Mubvundutsi dams will be of benefit as well.

Fr. Zevhito added that Caritas Chinhoyi was engaging different funding partners to enable them to respond to the El Nino-induced drought.

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