Zimbabwe Maize Meal Distribution
By Zvidzai Maburutse*
June 7, 2010—Drought, cholera, HIV/AIDS, and economic meltdown came together in early 2010 to plunge to a new low Zimbabwe’s already considerable humanitarian crisis. In January, at the peak of the hunger season, an estimated 1.9 million Zimbabweans required food assistance to stave off starvation.
Responding to this grave need, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the United Methodist Church of Zimbabwe (UMCZ) embarked on a maize meal distribution program to aid the most vulnerable households in the church’s 12 districts.
The drought last December and January was the most severe one to strike the continent in 15 years, according to the United Nations’ World Food Program. Nearly half a million acres of maize in Zimbabwe were scorched during the dry spell.
While the country’s economic situation continued on a downward spiral, AIDS-related deaths maintained a pace of 1,300 each week. Added to that, a cholera epidemic that began in August 2008 continued to affect thousands of Zimbabweans in the first months of 2010.
Relying on strong networks already established in the UMCZ districts, church staff played a central role in carrying out the food aid program. UMCOR trained 34 staff members in basic food aid concepts, program objectives, and distribution plans in support of the program’s implementation.
District teams registered beneficiaries who were in need of immediate food assistance, targeting households with orphans and vulnerable children, people living with AIDS, the chronically ill, and marginalized people. In all, more than 16,300 poor and vulnerable households were identified.
After procuring and milling the maize locally, 55-pound bags of maize meal were transported to district distribution points.
Bishop Eben K. Nhiwatiwa, who heads both the Zimbabwe East and Zimbabwe West annual conferences, officially launched the church’s distribution activities on March 23. He opened the program with a prayer at Revelation, a United Methodist center in Harare, the capital, and blessed the food to be distributed.
By the time the distribution was completed in May, UMCZ and UMCOR, working together, had ensured that 16,314 needy families had received a total of 408 metric tons of maize meal.
*Zvidzai Maburutse is UMCOR Zimbabwe’s head of mission. UMCOR Staff Writer Linda Unger contributed to this article.