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Only a plate of grain

"Only a plate of grain" Continued...

Issue: "Ghost busting," Aug. 24, 2002

Richard Fuller, country representative for the Food and Agriculture Organization, said corruption in the Chiluba government probably did not provoke this famine. But support for agriculture has always been low. Zambia derives nearly all of its income from copper exports. But the copper industry has struggled over the last decade, leaving the country with less income to buy imported food. The government increased budget funding this year and is working to import food, reduce tariffs on fuel and energy, and liberalize import duties. How those policies will affect the next season's harvest is uncertain.

Churches in Zambia are also helping starving communities. The Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia, a mother body of churches, is distributing nearly 7,000 tons of grain. The Reformed Church and Salvation Army also are receiving food from sources other than the World Food Program. "I see it as a great opportunity for the church to participate-not only to preach the word, but in action, in material assistance," said Mapanza Nkwilimba, associate director for relief for World Vision.

Even when communities do receive food aid, cultural practices often hinder its impact. In Lusitu, 20-year-old Angela Saiti comes to the depot to receive her ration. Her 2-year-old son is curled up on her back, staring out with the glassy eyes and worn face of malnutrition. "The husband eats more," says Harvest Help worker Joyce Simudede in disgust. "Instead of keeping food for the little ones, they give it to the husband."

Ms. Hamoonga says men generally suffer less from hunger and malnutrition by custom. "The men are drinking since morning while the women go searching for food," she adds.

Mr. Nkwilimba of World Vision says Zambians want to work and supply their own needs. "People don't like receiving free food-it degrades their integrity," he says. "They'd rather have the means of growing their own food." But Mrs. Seimugade isn't even thinking about the hungry months ahead. She says she's just waiting for the rains to come-and for one plate of grain.

-Priya Abraham is a World Journalism Institute fellow

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