CARITAS Zambia says the Catholic Church through Caritas is looking to raise over US$9 million for relief food to be distributed in areas that were hit by drought and floods during the 2018/2019 farming season. Caritas Zambia says if the hunger situation is not addressed, people could soon starve to death in the affected areas. Addressing the press yesterday, Caritas Zambia director Bishop Evans Chinyama Chinyemba said the hunger situation was bad in the areas and water had equally become a problem.
“Listening to the word of God inspires us to be instruments of justice, peace and love in order to spread this love to all people especially those who are currently suffering from hunger and lack of clean water,” Bishop Chinyemba said.
“To fully comprehend the hunger situation in the country, the Catholic Church through Caritas Zambia working with diocesan partners gathered information from the affected households using community interviews focus groups, direct observation and household field visitation in the affected areas. Aware that a hungry people are vulnerable and easily manipulated leading to loss of dignity and having analysed the reports of the hunger situation in Southern, Central, western, Eastern, Luapula and other parts of the country, we would like to inform the nation of our concerns as well as to make an earnest appeal.”
Bishop Chinyemba some households did not have enough food to take them through until next year.
“Southern, Western and some parts of Eastern, Central and Lusaka provinces experienced total crop failure. This means that households in these areas did not harvest anything that would help to sustain their livelihoods up to the next agricultural season. There are 50 districts affected by this situation and households are currently already experiencing serious hunger,” he said.
“According to the vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) under DMMU (Disaster Management and Mitigation Unity), a total of 418,969 households were affected by the dry spell hazard. In the places visited by the Catholic Church agents, 79 per cent of the crops were affected by drought, 13 per cent by floods while four per cent were affected by both drought and floods.”
Bishop Chinyemba also shared that water supply to the people and livestock had been affected by the adverse rainfall.
“Apart from crop failure, the prolonged dry spell during the last farming period has created water shortage for both people and animals. There are already reports from Gwembe that people are sharing water with Animals,” he said. “There are currently many households that have nothing to eat and are surviving on wild fruits or are getting-by without any food. This will certainly compromise the nutrition and health status of most people especially the children and if nothing is urgently done, we may begin to experience deaths from hunger.”
Bishop Chinyemba said evidence of widespread food distribution to all “these people is missing.”
“In places where this is happening, the amount of food given is so little that households are failing to meet their food requirements,” he said. “The ZCCB (Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops) through Caritas Zambia in collaboration with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Norwegian Church Aid, and CAFOD is putting together relief effort to contribute towards the alleviation of hunger in the affected regions. This contribution to governments efforts will target 10 per cent (42,000 households) of the total estimated number of 418,969 households currently in dire need of help and we call upon Zambians with the ability to make contributions to this noble cause.”
And appealing to Christians, Bishop Chinyemba said: “As followers of Christ, the mark of being truly His disciple is to respond to the needs of the little brothers and sisters who suffer.”
“Remember that many of your brothers and sisters do not have access to clean water and lack this basic necessity. Your support no matter how little will go a long way in saving that little child in Kaoma, Pemba, and Kazungula,” he said.
Bishop Chinyemba further asked politicians to avoid taking advantage of people’s desperation, and asked the government to declare a hunger disaster.
“[We] Appeal to politicians, we urge you to put aside your partisan inclination in this matter. It is an act of injustice to gain political mileage in a situation where people are in dire need of food and are vulnerable. Regardless of where the help is coming from, people must not be told to support political party A or B just because they have provided some food to alleviate peoples hunger. Food must be distributed without strings attached,” he said.
“We call upon the government to acknowledge the gravity of the problem and declare the affected areas as a disaster. This will help to mobilise resources and food items needed to feed these people now on and also support them to recover during the next farming season.”
Bishop Chinyemba said to help feed those households and also help them to recover from the 2018/2019 disaster, ZCCB would need to spend not less than $9.4 million.
Luapula Central member of parliament Emerine Kabanshi thanked the Catholic Church for their efforts in mitigating the government’s efforts in fighting the looming hunger situation.