An ongoing drought due to a failure of the rains is likely to see some five million people in the nations of Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, and South Africa needing food assistance by early next year. Some 30 million are at risk in what has been described as one of the driest years in decades. There is no expectation of rain in the immediate future and already there are signs of stress among particularly the rural populations, where residents are reporting that they have not had proper food for many days.
In Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe has declared a “state of disaster,” the government is trying to buy grain form neighbouring countries, but the problem is compounded by the widespread drought across much of the region, where stocks are already low.
Earlier in the year, Zimbabwe’s Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa appealed to local businesses and charities for more than $1.5 billion in aid to save more than a quarter of the population from starvation. Reports are now emerging, however, that much of the aid is being targeted towards supporters of the Zanu P-F ruling party at the expense of others in greater need. Elasto Mugwadi, the Zimbabwean Human Rights Commissioner, has ordered an investigation into discriminatory practices in food distribution, and Machinda Marongwe, Oxfam’s country director in Zimbabwe, said, “Oxfam is deeply concerned with these findings and calls for humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality, to be upheld in order to effectively deliver much needed assistance to the 4.2 million people affected by the drought. Every person has a right to receive the help they need, regardless of their political views.”
The World Food Programme has also appealed to the government to put compassion before politics. In countries where there are delicate balances to be struck between aid agencies; NGOs; and national, district, and local authorities; the paramount concern should be alleviating the suffering of those most in need regardless of their political affiliation. But in a culture that for decades has been riven by political enmity and tribal loyalty manifested in political affiliation, it is very hard to always see how compassion triumphs.
This article was originally published by Season of the Spirit.
Explore… Luke 17:11–19
- What kind of things does your faith community do to provide goods or money to help the poor?
- When your faith community reaches out to those less fortunate, what steps are taken to ensure that funds or materials reach their intended recipients?
- What is your expectation of those who receive your faith community’s beneficence?
- May we heed the line in St Francis’ famous prayer, “For it is in giving that we receive.” May we not feel bad about feeling good when we are gracious in our giving, and may our compassion spill over to all in need regardless of any prejudice we may harbour. Amen.