We the members of the Caritas family drawn from the dioceses of Chipata, Kabwe, Kasama, Livingstone, Mansa, Monze, Mpika, Ndola, Lusaka, Mongu and Solwezi; gathered in Lusaka at Kapingila house from 14th to 17th of June 2019; deliberating on what the Church teaches on the need for increased spirituality of Charity, Justice and Peace; and the call for the Church to be prophetic, vigilant, intrusive, engaging, and always seeking to be part and parcel of decision-making processes;
Scrutinizing the "signs of our times" and seeking to detect the meaning of emerging history while at the same time sharing the aspirations and questionings of all those who want to build a more humane world;
Listening to the Word of God that inspire 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;
Aware that 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 to all as follows:
The Hunger situation
In order 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 group discussions, direct observations, and household field visitation in the affected areas. Apart from this fact-finding mission, Caritas Zambia also sent out two teams in Monze and Luapula to have first-hand information on the situation in these two areas. This information was collated with that of the DMMU Rapid Assessment Report of March 2019. These assessments reveal that:
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 fifty districts affected by this situation and households are currently already experiencing serious hunger.
According to the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) under the DMMU, a total of 418,969 households were affected by the dry spell hazard. In the places visited by the Catholic Church agents, 79% of the crops were affected by drought, 13% by floods while 4% were affected by both drought and floods.
Apart from crop failure, the prolonged dry spell during the last farming period has created a water shortage for both animals and people. There are already reports from Gwembe that people are sharing water with animals.
In addition, following the crop failure due to the drought, government, under the Ministry of Agriculture has cancelled the holding of the annual Agriculture Shows in the affected provinces that include Lusaka, Southern and Western provinces. This is clear evidence that the situation is stressful in these areas.
There are currently many households that have nothing to eat and are either surviving from wild fruits or are getting by without any food. This situation 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.
Evidence of widespread distribution of food staff 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.
In our liturgical celebrations we do pray this way, ‘Open our eyes to the needs of our brothers and sisters; inspire in us words and actions to comfort those who labour and are burned. Make us serve them truly, after the example of Christ and at his command. And may your Church stand as a living witness to truth and freedom, to peace and justice, that all people may be raised up to a new hope’ (Eucharistic Prayer IV, Jesus, Who Went About Doing Good).
It is the same prayer that says, ‘Grant that all the faithful of the Church, looking into the signs of the times by the light of faith, may constantly devote themselves to the service of the Gospel. Keep us attentive to the needs of all that, sharing their grief and pain, their joy and hope, we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation and go forward with them along the way of your Kingdom’ (Eucharistic Prayer III, Jesus, the Way to the Father).
It is such prayers that inspire us to do what we do and wish to do as Caritas Family and as members of the Catholic Church and all the people of good will.
Our Appeal to all people of Good Will
The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) through Caritas Zambia in collaboration with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) and CAFOD is putting together relief effort to contribute towards the alleviation of hunger in the affected regions. This contribution to the government’s efforts will target 10% (42,000 households) of the total estimated number of households (418, 969) currently in dire need of help. And so we call upon Zambians with the ability to make contributions to this noble cause.
Special Appeal to Christians
As followers of Christ, Jesus told us that the mark of being truly his disciple is to respond to the needs of the little brothers and sisters who suffer, “for I was hungry and you gave me to eat.” Mt 25: 35, “…I was thirsty and you gave me to drink…” Mt 25:35. Everyone needs food for the body. However, there are many people in Zambia this time who are getting by without food. This is not as a result of their own fault but as a result of the ravages of Mother Nature influenced by our actions that cause climate change. In this situation, we implore you to consider how good stewardship practices of your own food habits can benefit others who do not have resources to mitigate their hunger situation. It is an act of love to help others to obtain their bodily nourishment, especially those in greatest need.
Remember that many of your brothers and sisters in the affected areas do not have access to clean water and suffer from the lack of this basic necessity. Your support no matter how little will go a long way in saving that little child in Kaoma, Pemba and Kazungula.
Appeal to Politicians
To all political players in these affected areas, 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 dare 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 people’s hunger. Food must be distributed without strings attached.
Appeal to Government
In view of the staggering number of households that have been affected by the floods and the dry spell, 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 the necessary food items that are needed to feed these people from now on and also support them to recover during the next farming season.
Dear brothers and Sisters, remember these words, ‘Caritas Christi Urget Nos- The Love of Christ Urges us’ (2 Cor 5:14). All through Christian history, Jesus Christ identified himself closely with the hungry, the thirsty, the strangers, the naked, the sick, the prisoners. As followers of Christ, ours is to recognise the face of Christ in the faces of our brothers and sisters who suffer today the effect of poor harvest and on one hand, floods.
The Catholic Church is taking this board step to complement government efforts to provide relief to the affected households in Southern, Western, Lusaka, Eastern, Central and Lunga in Luapula Province. The Church is targeting 42,000 households who have been affected by the unfavourable weather conditions during the 2018/19 production season. In order to help feed these households and also help them to recover from the 2018/2019disaster, ZCCB will need to spend not less than, US$ 9,399,427. Your contribution and help towards this cause will be greatly appreciated.
May Sant Martin De Porres, Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Saint Oscar Romero intercede for us as we begin this journey.
May God bless you,
May God Bless Zambia.