As many Americans prepare for their annual Thanksgiving feast, people in Southern Africa are digging in the dirt to find roots and plucking leaves from trees to feed their children.

Baptist World Aid Director Paul Montacute heard many horror stories on his recent trip to Southern Africa.

According to a release from BWA, “Mothers are being forced to scrabble in the dirt to find roots, and pluck any leaves from the trees, to find some way of feeding their children!”

The release also said that hungry Southern Africans are eating maize while it is still green on the stalk. This means that by harvest time the grain will have already been consumed.

Women are resorting to trading their own bodies for food for their families, reported BWA. And people are fighting the animals for water.

The drought in Southern Africa is worsening and, according to the United Nations World Food Programme’s latest estimate, 14.4 million people in the six affected countries will need food aid. That is 25 percent of the population in these drought-ridden countries.

“Baptist groups in South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe are already working on programs to alleviate hunger and provide clean water,” wrote BWA. “In some places it is the shortage of grain that is hindering their relief, and in others, it is the lack of funds to purchase food.”

In response to the dire circumstances of many Southern Africans, BWA recently held a roundtable meeting to discuss what can be done to help.
Those at the discussions said that HIV/AIDS and the politicization of food were also playing considerable roles in the hunger issue.

Twenty-four percent of adults in the region are affected by HIV/AIDS, according to BWA. “In Malawi just 60% of children, under the age of 15, live with their biological parents, 21% live just with their mother, 2% with their father, and 16% with neither their birth mother or father!”

Food has also been withheld from people for political reasons, BWA said. Some countries even disposed of their food reserves for political reasons, thus adding to the crisis.

The WFP is directing support to these famine and drought-ridden countries.
According to the WFP Web site, Mozambique is classified as a “least developed and low-income, food-deficit country.” In 2000, Mozambique ranked 168th out of 174 hunger-stricken countries.  Malawi ranked 163rd.

“The current poverty level in Zambia is estimated at 70 percent and poverty indicators rank among the highest in Africa,” according to WFP. “Over 50 percent of Zambian children suffer from malnutrition.”

There is no doubt that the need is great and BWA, WFP and Bread for the World offer several ways for people to fight hunger.

Bread for the World even offers Sunday school resources to help children understand the realities of world hunger.

Learn about hunger, write to government officials, support organizations that feed the hungry, raise money to help the hungry and pray for those that are hungry. These suggestions, offered by Bread for the World, are a beginning.

Visit the BWA Web site to find out how to get involved in efforts to end hunger in Southern Africa.

Jodi Mathews is BCE’s communications director.

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