Sunday, September 23, 2007

Zimbabwe: Children Dying

News about a country that was one of the most prosperous in Africa just a few years ago...

Friday, September 21, 2007
Many children dying in Zimbabwe reports British evangelical aid agency
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

LONDON, UK (ANS) -- A Christian aid agency reports that Zimbabwe is in an increasingly desperate situation, with little food due to drought and poor harvests, and the collapse of civil infrastructure meaning basic services are no longer available to the majority of Zimbabweans.

This news comes in a report from the website of Ekklesia (www.ekklesia.co.uk).

Hungry children in Zimbabwe wait for food

The story states that churches are helping to fight poverty, hunger and HIV/AIDS among Zimbabwe's decimated communities and helping to meet the basic day to day needs. This, they say, is according to the UK Christian relief agency Tearfund (The Evangelical Alliance Relief Fund).

"The news comes as Prime Minister Gordon Brown looks set to boycott a summit of European and African leaders to be attended by the Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe," said the Ekklesia story.

"Describing the situation in the former British colony as 'appalling and tragic', Mr. Brown accused the Zimbabwean president of abusing his own people.

"He urged the deployment of a United Nations humanitarian mission and promised support for the economic reconstruction of Zimbabwe once Mr. Mugabe was gone.
While moving to isolate Zimbabwe's government, Mr. Brown is also to announce more British aid money for the country."

Already Zimbabwe's second biggest donor, the UK will provide an additional £8 million, to be delivered through the World Food Programme.

Peter Grant, Tearfund's International Director, says children are now suffering from very high levels of chronic malnutrition. "People are dying. It's the very young, the very old, and those with Aids who are the most vulnerable," says Peter. "We heard recently of a church leader who had to bury a grandmother and a baby from the same family over the same weekend. As the year goes on with the continuing food shortages, we can expect the situation to get worse, and more people to die."

"With inflation exceeding 4500% - some reports put the figure nearer 8000% - currency no longer buys food and medical care. Even if people could afford to go to hospital, there are no longer medical supplies to treat them. The wages of hospital staff do not even cover the bus fare to work," the story continued.

The crisis has engulfed the cities, where food distributions were rarely seen previously. Middle income school teachers told Tearfund that they can't even afford to buy sugar. Pastor Promise Manceda leads a church in Bulawayo and sees the stark reality. "If the middle classes consider themselves poor, then the most marginalized people in society are hit so much harder," says Promise. "We have to help them - and it is only with God's strength that we are still able to."

A young AIDS victim being comforted by nurse in Zimbabwean hospital

HIV and AIDS related illnesses have compounded the suffering - leaving many unable to work in fear and isolation. Unemployment is over 80% and those that can find casual work often do so for small amounts of food. Others search around for vegetables to supplement meager amounts of maize, getting by on one inadequate meal a day. Because of the lack of food over the last five years many of Zimbabwe's children suffer from chronic malnutrition and an increasing number are too sick to go to school.

The Ekklesia story tells the story of Esinah, a grandmother in her 80's, caring for eight AIDS orphans. Queuing for maize, beans and oil at a food distribution funded by Tearfund she spoke of the people dying in her community. "There have been many deaths and people are starving," says Esinah. "Without this food we could be dead by now. Only God knows what will happen."

Supporting churches in wider relief response is at the heart of Tearfund's vision. The UK agency is funding, assisting and standing with them as they tirelessly work to fight poverty and social injustice. Tearfund's Peter Grant talks of the churches having a biblical mandate to speak out against poverty - as they continue to engage the public square while they can, remaining non-political within civil society. "To speak out requires real courage and they need our support in prayer," adds Peter. "They need practical support and continued international pressure for change."

The story concluded by saying, "Tearfund is currently funding feeding programmes for some 9500 orphans and vulnerable children. Working through churches and church based agencies this is relieving some of the immediate suffering - providing essential, but very limited, assistance. Many more need help."

The Tearfund website is www.tearfund.org.
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