Dear Sisters and Brothers in Faith,
Southern Africa is on the verge of a severe famine. The pictures we are familiar with from famines past have not made their way onto our television screens, newspapers, and internet newsites. News of the crisis has been superceded by our own security issues, the war on terrorism, the crisis in the Middle East, and wildfires and floods in the United States. The food shortage in Southern Africa is not getting the media coverage a disaster of this proportion calls for. The United Nations World Food Program reports 7.7 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe require immediate food assistance. By March 2003, that number will rise to 12.8 million. People are facing starvation in Angola and Namibia as well.
In Matthew 25:40, Jesus Christ calls us to reach out to "the least of these." Our response to human suffering cannot be limited by what is capturing the media's attention.
The most vulnerable--children, older adults, pregnant women and those who are ill--are already dying. Chronic malnutrition and the millions infected by HIV or orphaned by AIDS compound the effects of the food shortage. Several factors have caused the crisis: severe drought alternating with flooding, resulting in poor harvests over the past two years; political turmoil; and economic instability. The land-rights struggles in Zimbabwe have interfered with agricultural production. In Malawi, government officials have mismanaged food supplies, selling the country's entire emergency grain reserve.
During the past few months, UMCOR has sent emergency food-assistance grants to our United Methodist and ecumenical partners in Malawi, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Far more is needed. Many food supplies are donated by governments from other continents and managed by United Nations agencies. UMCOR will focus on supporting the local, grass-roots infrastructure in the distribution process, assisting HIV/AIDS-affected families and orphans, maintaining educational programs and improving agricultural development to stabilize communities for the long term. UMCOR does not transfer funds to national governments. Churches and community groups implement UMCOR-supported projects.
Please give generously to the Churchwide Appeal for Southern Africa Famine, UMCOR Advance #101250. We urge you to take special offerings for famine relief one Sunday per month during July, August and September 2002. (If you cannot take your offerings during this time, please find another opportunity for your congregation to participate.) Your gifts will help to save millions of lives, strengthen communities and reduce the risk of recurring famine.
This is a time of uncertainty for all of us. But amid economic instability and the ongoing threat of terror, most of us in the United States still can feed, shelter and clothe our families. We are blessed with abundance. Please open your hearts and share your resources with our brothers and sisters in southern Africa who, despite their hard work, watch their children and other loved ones starve. And as you offer your financial gifts, please offer your prayers as well--that all of God's children may find the sustenance they need to survive and to thrive.
Grace and peace,
Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher
President, Council of Bishops
Bishop Alfred L. Norris, President
General Council on Finance and Administration
Photos: Top Left-- In the Zomba district of Chingale Division in the southern region of Malawi, the number of children attending school has risen nearly 40 percent since food-distribution started. ACT member, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) has sent high-protein biscuits (BP5) to this district, working with CCAP, the only agency distributing food relief in this part of Malawi. UMCOR is supporting this ACT appeal. Credit: Hege Opseth, Norwegian Church Aid July 2002. Middle Right-- Edina is the oldest lady in Sinos village, Malawi. She has no food left in her house so must depend on handouts to survive. Credit: Hege Opseth, Norwegian Church Aid July 2002. Bottom Right-- A malnourished girl receives her father's help eating at a feeding center in Luena, Angola. Credit: Paul Jeffrey/ACT July 2002. Click on picture for larger view.
Banner Photo: In the Zomba district of Chingale Division in the southern region of Malawi, the number of children attending school has risen nearly 40 percent since food-distribution started. ACT member, Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) has sent high-protein biscuits (BP5) to this district, working with CCAP, the only agency distributing food relief in this part of Malawi. UMCOR is supporting this ACT appeal. Credit: Hege Opseth, Norwegian Church Aid July 2002.