HARARE, Zimbabwe (BP)–With food prices spiraling out of sight and their country’s economy in ruins, the average family in Zimbabwe is struggling to survive.
Store shelves are devoid of basic necessities such as oil, flour, sugar, corn meal and even soap. Most items can be found on the black market, but few can afford the inflated prices: Buying one tomato would cost some pensioners their entire month’s income.
Southern Baptists are responding to the desperate need by shipping 1,000 boxes of food into the country. Six hundred parcels are scheduled to be delivered before the Christmas holidays, and the remainder will arrive soon after.
Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist development and relief organization, purchased the groceries, at a cost of about $70 per box, with money Southern Baptists donated to their World Hunger Fund.
“Southern Baptists care about ministering in a holistic way. Zimbabwe is in dire need,” said Mark Hatfield, who leads Baptist Global Response work in sub-Saharan Africa. “We can connect people in need with people who care enough to help.”
While the crisis in Zimbabwe isn’t the result of a natural disaster, the economic problem has left the people in the same kind of desperate plight -– being unable to afford or acquire the basic necessities of daily life.
Inflation in the country is out of control. In November, Zimbabwe’s chief statistician said it was impossible to calculate the inflation rate because stores didn’t have anything on the shelves to put price tags on. The last inflation statistic released by the government was 14,000 percent, meaning that last year’s 50-cent loaf of bread would now cost $70 -– if a person could find a loaf of bread.
In September, the government tried to check the inflationary spiral by fixing prices on basic necessities. Stores couldn’t afford to sell at the government prices, however, and many of them simply shut down, forcing basic necessities onto the black market.
“If you are upper middle class, you can manage,” one Baptist pastor said. “But it’s a hard life for the lower middle class and the lower class. Most people eat sadza [boiled corn meal] once a day for their meal. This is still very expensive to get on the black market and hard to find.”
Finding food is often the main problem. One Zimbabwean Baptist church tried to help a local prison that needed food and spent two weeks trying to find a bag of rice and four weeks looking for a bag of beans. They ended up paying $62.50 for one bag of rice.
“The average person can’t afford that!” the pastor exclaimed.
“When Baptist Global Response came to our Baptist Union offering these food boxes, the pastors couldn’t believe it,” he continued. “There’s no way to express the gratitude we feel, knowing someone cares for our people. It’s humbling.”
The food boxes being delivered contain rice, oil, salt, powdered milk, candles, corned beef, tea, sugar, soap, matches, flour, washing powder and beans.
Besides purchasing the food boxes, Baptist Global Response also is providing the fuel needed for distribution. That will allow local Baptist churches to distribute the boxes in their communities to families identified as being in need.
However, with nine out of 10 people in Zimbabwe unable to get proper food, this project will barely scratch the surface of the need.
“Life is hard for many people in Zimbabwe right now,” the pastor explained. “Someone who once lived on a good pension now can only buy one tomato with their monthly pension.
“Can you imagine working all your life to be able to buy one tomato?”
Brenda Lane is a Southern Baptist writer in East Africa. Gifts to the Southern Baptist World Hunger may be sent to Baptist Global Response, 402 BNA Drive, Suite 411, Nashville, TN 37217 or www.gobgr.org. Checks should be made out to the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. Each donation is applied 100 percent toward hunger needs; nothing is withheld for administrative costs.