Several years ago, I received a voicemail from a concerned doctor. He lived and practised in Toronto, Ont., but his native homeland was Zimbabwe. Upon returning from a recent medical mission to Harare, he left me an ambiguous message: “We need to talk.” His concern was palpable, even over the phone.
This expat was raising an alarm for Zimbabwe. When we sat down to chat, coffee in hand, he began a lengthy narrative of a country once commonly known as the breadbasket of Africa.
Zimbabwe used to be a country called Rhodesia. On average, Rhodesia consumed less maize than the country produced by an average of 400,000 tonnes a year! Rhodesia was a huge net exporter of maize across Africa. 1
However, at the time of our conversation, hunger and malnutrition were at record highs. The city of Harare, steeped in urban poverty, had not been maintained, and its sewage system seeped into the city’s water supply. 2 Zimbabwe was experiencing a cholera outbreak. 3 This preventable waterborne disease was taking lives. The need for food and clean water in Zimbabwe could not have been clearer.
Today, several years later, the situation in Zimbabwe is even worse. Six in 10 people are suffering from ongoing acute hunger and need humanitarian assistance to survive. 4 ERDO (Emergency Relief and Development Overseas) is responding with emergency food programs, getting immediate supplies to families in their time of desperate need, and conservation agriculture initiatives. Together, we’re helping families grow their own food to create long-lasting change.
Mrs. Chitsama lives in Zimbabwe, and we were able to give her and her family emergency food. Before they received these much-needed supplies, they struggled to scrape together a single meal every day. Mrs. Chitsama told us about the huge difference three meals daily makes in her life. She said it became much easier to carry water and firewood into their home. Her husband could go into their field without becoming weak from hunger and take care of their plants.
Something as simple as three meals a day does change life for a person struggling through a drought.
In Zimbabwean schools, we have been providing meals for children. Eugine is eight years old, and his parents are day labourers, meaning they don’t have stable jobs. Each day they go out looking for work in nearby fields. Eugine’s parents can afford only one daily meal for their children. ERDO and the local church are working together to provide lunch at school for Eugine and other children.
Even though we are taking food to families in need, we want to empower people in Zimbabwe to grow their own food. Working with 300 farmers, we are providing tools, seeds, and training in conservation agriculture. Two hundred of these families will be raising chickens and rabbits as food sources. Building a new well in the area will bring clean drinking water into homes and help these farmers become successful.
We’re doing a lot in Zimbabwe, but the question remains—how did the country go from having too much to having far too little? And why are we seeing such huge hunger spikes in other parts of the world?
From 2019 to 2020, the number of hungry people in our world increased by 118 million people! Canadian Foodgrains Bank calls itself “a Christian response to hunger.” They’re also ERDO’s partner and help us raise money for food programs. Canadian Foodgrains Bank listed three reasons for the huge jump in food insecurity rates.
1. Climate Change
ERDO works with many small farmers who grow enough food to feed their families and make a small income. These farmers are experiencing more extreme weather, including droughts, floods, and natural disasters. As seasons change, farmers don’t know when to plant their crops. Waiting for rain in a drought, a farmer can lose their whole harvest.
2. Conflict and Violence
Today people are on the move, leaving their homes and everything behind to save their lives. When war breaks out, the fight for resources, including food and water, happens first. Families may flee and become refugees or stay and join the fight for food while risking their safety. Right now, more than half of all hungry people in the world live in countries where there is active conflict. 5
If you’ve been following ERDO for a while, you know the pandemic has impacted our communities. Lockdowns are keeping parents from work, and families struggle to feed their children as a result. We have partnered with PAOC global workers and local churches, people who know the families in their communities well, to take food to those in need.
When I heard the voicemail, “We need to talk,” I did not expect that my heart would be stirred for a country in crisis. Our world is facing a hunger crisis, so let’s work together to raise the alarm! If you have a love for a developing country, are passionate about climate action, helping victims of violence or assisting the pandemic relief, ERDO has a project for you.
Visit www.erdo.ca or email us at email@example.com to ask questions about what ERDO is doing around the world. Then phone a friend or send a text saying, “We need to talk.” Trust me—you might be surprised where it takes you.
Alicia Kolenda is the marketing and communications co-ordinator at ERDO.
This article appeared in the January/February/March 2022 issue of testimony/Enrich, a quarterly publication of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. © 2022 The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Photo © ERDO.
- Wandile Sihlobo and Sifiso Ntombela, “ANALYSIS: Was Zimbabwe ever the breadbasket of Africa?” Africa Check, November 28, 2017, accessed October 15, 2021, https://africacheck.org/fact-checks/blog/analysis-was-zimbabwe-ever-breadbasket-africa.
- “Zimbabwe: Untreated sewage makes its way into drinking water,” The New Humanitarian, August 23, 2007, Relief Web, accessed October 18, 2021, https://reliefweb.int/report/zimbabwe/zimbabwe-untreated-sewage-makes-its-way-drinking-water.
- Alison Winstead, Jonathan Strysko, Pryanka Relan, et al., “Notes from the Field: Cholera Outbreak—Zimbabwe, September 2018 – March 2019,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 1, 2020, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed October 18, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/69/wr/mm6917a3.htm.
- “Ravages of acute hunger will likely hit six in 10 in Zimbabwe: WFP,” United Nations News, July 30, 2020, accessed October 18, 2021, https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/07/1069321.
- “Hunger, Conflict, and Improving the Prospects for Peace,” World Food Programme, October 2020, accessed October 18, 2021, https://docs.wfp.org/api/documents/WFP-0000119678/download/.