The desperate plight of the people of Zimbabwe has hit the world media, in the context of Zimbabwe’s recent elections. Zimbabwe has the world’s highest inflation and lowest life expectancy. There is virtually no food in the shops; few can afford to buy food, anyway.
Zimbabwe’s starving population is dependent on aid, much of it coming through the churches. ‘Without church donations we would be dead’, said one grandmother, who earns less than £1 a month sweeping the street.
Barnabas Fund is supporting a project which works through churches in Zimbabwe to bring food aid for the poorest in their congregations. Often families who receive the food aid share it with those outside the church who have none.
A monthly food package, designed to feed a family of 7-10 people, contains: 10kg maize meal, 2 litres cooking oil, 2.5kg bread flour, 6 packets dry yeast, 2kg rice, 2kg lima beans, 2.5kg sugar, 800g peanut butter, 500g salt. Food is bought in bulk outside Zimbabwe to keep prices down, so one package costs only £8.60, meaning that the cost per person is around 3p per day.
A Barnabas Fund representative, who joined a small team to make a food distribution trip, described the welcome they received:
‘We unloaded the food into a hut and waited for the local church pastor to gather his congregation. We were approached by a very embarrassed village head who said that it is customary to serve visitors with food and drink but they had none to give. It was quite apparent that this village was in a state of famine.
‘The team leader gave a short spiritual message before 50 food packages were distributed to the family groups. Another 30 packages were kept for another congregation who were due to arrive in the morning.
‘The people were absolutely overjoyed and could not stop shaking our hands and hugging us. We slept in the village chief’s mud hut that night while the entire village gave prayers and songs of thanks and praise until 2.00 in the morning’.
Once called ‘the breadbasket of Africa’, Zimbabwe is now in the grip of long-term starvation. Because of the policies of President Mugabe and some extreme weather conditions, Zimbabweans are starving to death. Life expectancy for men is 37, and for women 34.