Churches in Zambia urge government to declare food crisis to unlock international help

A dry section of the Zambezi river is seen above the gorge on the Zambian side of Victoria Falls, Zambia, in December, after a prolonged drought (PHOTO: Reuters).

Originally published in Church Times

Churches in Zambia have called on the government of the country to declare a food crisis to unlock international help.

The president of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Bishop of Chipata, the Rt Revd George Lungu, said that declaring a crisis was the first step in addressing it.

“We believe as a Catholic Church that it would not only be wise but necessary for the government to send a very clear message — not only to the people in Zambia but the world at large — acknowledging the problem,” he said.

“And we are not saying that when we say there is a problem, it is the fault of one person or another; of one ministry or another in government. These are things that occur because of climate change; because of unfavourable weather patterns. The only responsible way to address the situation is not to bury our heads in the sand. We must face the truth, and the truth is that people need help.”

The Zambian government has rejected the call. It said that it has enough supplies of grain. The UN has issued a warning, however, about the growing threat of hunger in the west and south of the country, owing to prolonged droughts, which have reduced the country’s famous Victoria Falls to a trickle of water.

The general secretary of the United Church of Zambia, the Revd Dr Peggy Mulambya-Kabonde, told the World Council of Churches: “Things are so bad in the south and west of Zambia we have to pray to God to have mercy on us.”

It is feared that at least 2.3 million people are facing food shortages during the “lean” season, until March 2020.

Neighbouring Zimbabwe, which was devastated by Cyclone Idai last year, is also suffering because of prolonged drought. More than half the country’s population — more than seven million people — are facing a food crisis.

CAFOD has launched an appeal to raise urgent funds for food and clean drinking water.

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