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Church Agencies Respond to Drought

Posted on: October 21, 1997 1:32 PM
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Changes in weather cycles have had a devastating effect on Africa's abilities to feed itself. Drought conditions that normally recur every five to ten years in Tanzania have recently occurred every three years. The government in Ethiopia says 4.6 million people need relief assistance. The lack of rain in Mauritania again this year is expected to result in widespread crop losses. Action by Churches Together (ACT) is appealing for help with its efforts to feed the hungry.

The United Nations World Food Program warned that three million Tanzanians face severe food shortages over the next several months because of the drought. President Benjamin Mpaka has declared a national food emergency and banned all food exports.

"This is yet another calamity in the region," said Kaanaeli Makundi, coordinator for program implementation in the Department for World Service of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). "Tanzanians are not just caring for themselves but also for refugees from Rwanda, Zaire and Burundi who are presently in Tanzania."

ACT is working through the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, LWF's Tanganyika Christian Refugee Service and the Christian Council of Tanzania to implement coordinated drought relief in Tanzania. They are buying seeds to be distributed during the September-October planting season and providing supplementary food stocks to the vulnerable populations.

ACT works to meet human need by coordinating the emergency response of a worldwide network of churches. It is organisationally based in the Lutheran World Federation and the World Council of Churches.

"Food relief is a temporary measure. It must be combined with measures to make it easier to cope with the next round of droughts," said Mr Makundi. "Those affected by the drought are involved in making decisions on the measures being taken, in the distribution of the food and in making others aware of the implications if sustainable measures are not taken."

ACT is calling on Churches around the world to raise US$ 2,682,110 for the program in Tanzania. The appeal has already brought in US$ 564,882.

In Ethiopia the situation is desperate due to the failure of rains and grim forecasts for anticipated rains. Since ACT began planning in March to provide relief assistance in Ethiopia, the number of people in need has increased from one million to 3.4 million.

More than 330,000 metric tons of food aid is needed in Ethiopia, ACT reports, of which slightly more than 50 percent is available. The elderly, children, lactating mothers and people with disabilities constitute 20 percent of the vulnerable population.

ACT's Mauritania Program with LWF World Service hopes to feed 1,000 malnourished children and 750 vulnerable mothers and to restock or create 19 cereal banks. With a target of US $ 158,520, the appeal has received US $ 58,800. Without additional funding the program will drop its rehabilitation elements to focus on supplementary feeding centers.