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Zimbabwe food crisis deepens, workers say

HARARE, Zimbabwe (BP)–The food crisis in southern Africa is deepening and Southern Baptist workers in Zimbabwe are calling for prayer that God will intervene.

With food prices rising and supplies dwindling globally, “food security” is a major issue in many countries, but the crisis is much sharper in Zimbabwe, where political uncertainty and economic turmoil -– including the world’s highest inflation rate at 160,000 percent -– are making daily life virtually impossible for the poorest people. About one-third of Zimbabwe’s 12 million people are receiving emergency food aid.

The situation is compounded even further by weather, said Mark Hatfield, who leads work in sub-Saharan Africa for Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist international relief and development organization. Flooding wiped out crops in many parts of the country early this year, then three months of extremely dry weather has caused serious damage to this year’s maize harvest.

“Southern Baptists who care have been responding to the crisis by providing boxes of staple food to help families in crisis,” Hatfield said. “To date, more than 1,000 parcels of food have been delivered.

“However, there have been some changes in import processes and fees that are making it harder and more expensive to get the parcels into the country,” Hatfield added. “We need Southern Baptists to pray that food parcels will make it across the border and into the hands of the people who need them so desperately.”

Each parcel contains about 50 pounds of food, including rice, dry beans, wheat flour, cooking oil, salt, powdered milk, canned corn beef, sugar and tea. One food parcel will feed a family of six for one week at a cost of about $80.

Baptist Global Response delivered a shipment of nearly 600 parcels just before Christmas and another 400 boxes were delivered after the first of the year, Hatfield said. Now the project has been extended, with a goal of funding and shipping another 3,500 boxes.

“Many of these food parcels will go to the most vulnerable households in the nation,” Hatfield said. “Widows, orphans and the elderly will have priority.”

Besides purchasing the food boxes, Baptist Global Response also is providing the fuel needed for distribution. That allows local Baptist churches to distribute the boxes in their communities to families identified as being in need.

That aspect of the project also has become more complicated. News services reported in early May that the government of neighboring Botswana has banned the export of bulk fuel into Zimbabwe, a move intended to protect Botswana’s own fuel supplies in light of soaring global oil prices and Botswana’s weakening currency.

“Southern Baptists care about ministering in a holistic way and Zimbabwe is in dire need,” Hatfield said. “We can connect people in need with people who care enough to help.”
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor at Baptist Press. The Baptist Global Response website is located at gobgr.org.

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  • Mark Kelly