Caritas Zambia has called on government to acknowledge the gravity of the hunger problem in the country and declare the affected areas a national disaster.

Southern, Western and some parts of Eastern, Central and Lusaka provinces experienced total crop failure, meaning that households in these areas did not harvest anything that would help to sustain their livelihoods up to the next agricultural season.

In a statement, Caritas Bishop president Evans Chinyemba stated that there were currently several households that had nothing to eat, and were either surviving from wild fruits or were getting by without any food, a situation that compromised the nutrition and health status of most people, especially among children, and might soon begin to lead to deaths from hunger.

According to the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC), under the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), a total of 418,969 households were affected by the dry spell, with 79 per cent affected by drought, 13 per cent by floods and the remaining affected by both droughts and floods in areas visited by the Catholic Church’s agents.

Apart from crop failure, the prolonged dry spell during the last farming season created chronic water shortages for both animals and people as reports from Gwembe, Southern Province, suggested that people and animals were sharing the same drinking water sources.

“In view of the staggering number of households that has been affected by the floods and the dry spell, we call upon government to acknowledge the gravity of the problem and declare the affected areas as a disaster. This will help to mobilize resources and the necessary food items that is needed to feed these people from now on, and also support them to recover during the next farming season,” Bishop Chinyemba stated.

“As Christians, 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.”

He explained that Caritas had pledged to help government’s efforts by contributing foodstuffs, among other items, to target 10 per cent of the total 418,969 estimated number of households currently in dire need of help.

“Evidence of widespread distribution of food stuffs to all people is not seen with areas that are receiving are seen to be getting insufficient amounts as the households are not able to meet their daily requirements,” he observed.

Bishop Chinyemba also urged political players in the country to put aside partisan inclinations to help alleviate the people’s hardships.

He noted that partisan interests were an act of injustice to gain political mileage in a situation where people were in dire need of food and were vulnerable as relief food ought to be distributed with no strings attached.

Bishop Chinyemba appealed to all stakeholders to come on board and compliment government’s food distribution relief efforts.

The statement was issued after 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 June14-17, 2019, to deliberate on what the Church teaches on the need for increased spirituality of charity, justice and peace, among other matters.

The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB), through Caritas Zambia in collaboration with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Norwegian Church Aid (NCA), among others, is putting together relief effort to contribute towards the alleviation of hunger in the affected regions.

The Catholic Church is taking the positive step to compliment government’s efforts and provide relief to the affected households in the afflicted areas of the country, and is targeting 42,000 households who had been affected by the unfavourable weather conditions during the 2018/2019 agricultural season.

They have estimated that the total cost of distributing the pledged foodstuffs is around US $9.4 million dollars.