Dear Brethren,

In part B we speak of the good news and the progress in Africa. In this section we will draw attention to the more serious and desperate situations in Africa.

The most serious situation at present is in Zimbabwe where the people and particularly the children are at serious risk of death by famine. What makes this so serious is that in comparison, the famine in the north is in the main drought induced but also brought about by religious conflict in the Sudan and arrogant stupidity in Somalia. The problem in Sub Saharan Africa is not drought induced so much as the result of political feuds and administrative incompetence. Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of Africa. Since 2000 the Mugabe regime has reduced the country to a situation where it is facing annihilation by its own administration and indolence.

Robert Mugabe lays the blame everywhere but at his own door. The Zimbabweans are now eating “bush tucker.” That is whatever wild berries and fruit and game meat they can find.

The aid agencies are agreed that half the population, or about five million people, face starvation. Two thirds of children are out of school and cholera is rampant due to water shortages. The Eastern province of Manicaland has no reserves of food and the diseases symptomatic of famine are now at levels never before encountered in Zimbabwe. Robert Mugabe has exceeded the destruction and depopulation wrought even by the manic Shaka Zulu at his heights of genocide. The same is true across the country. Greg Powell, chairman of the Zimbabwean Child Protection Society is reported as saying that “In the 32 years I have worked in Zimbabwe as a paediatrician I have never known a more serious situation... We can predict an exponential increase in cases of kwashiorkor and malnutrition over the next six months. “

The diseases of famine, kwashiorkor, marasmus and pellagra, stalk the Zimbabwean countryside and the urban slums. People are fleeing to South Africa where the tribalism is further oppressing them.

Hunger related diseases are killing people and particularly children in hospitals and over 50% of admission end up in the mortuary. The hopeless are admitted. The ones able to scrounge at home are turned away to die at home.

While the greatest crisis to hit Zimbabwe and South Africa in centuries runs rampant the politicians argue over control. Robert Mugabe wants to hang on to power at all costs even if his people die in the process in their entirety. He uses an armed force to control a population that are themselves the living dead with 90% HIV positive infections.

Six weeks ago Robert Mugabe relaxed partially a three-month-old ban on food distribution by aid agencies but restrictive regulations still handicap the delivery of relief severely. This, anywhere else, would be termed for what it is: Genocide, and he would be arraigned on trial for it at the ICJ by the UN. Geoff Foster, a pediatrician in the provincial hospital in Mutare is reported as saying: “Malnutrition is a silent emergency that affects young children and they die quietly... There is a famine situation prevailing and it is desperate.”

A Times report (pub. 14 Oct. 2008) says: In forlorn, rundown hospitals all over Manicaland children’s malnutrition wards are full. The small patients lay deathly still, their hair sparse reddish clumps on oversized heads, their bodies swollen with oedema, all characteristic signs of kwashiorkor. “I had an eight-year-old boy in the ward with kwashiorkor,” said Dr Foster. “That is highly unusual, it’s mostly confined to two and three-year-olds. That’s an indication of how serious the hunger is.”

A doctor in a mission hospital in Nyanga district was examining a child with severe kwashiorkor. The doctor explained that the hospitals lack lifesaving protein supplements, “so we use diluted milk. They are supposed to get six feeds a day. But we get milk one day and for the next five there is nothing.

Many starving children are sent away. “In hospital we cannot feed them,” said the doctor hopelessly. “At least at home they can scrounge for things. We only keep those that we can see won’t make it at home. We have lost the battle before we have fought it.”

At one district hospital well over a hundred HIV-positive patients came in for antiretrovirals last week. Every one of them was suffering from malnutrition.

Another doctor told of a mother who died in childbirth leaving an HIV-positive infant. “The grandmother was here but she would not take the child. She said she could not feed it, there was no food at home. So we are stuck with the child. its starvation all over, starving, starving, starving.”

Pellagra, an adult form of malnutrition that ends in madness and death, is becoming commonplace, and not just among impoverished rural folk. Three private doctors said that they had seen patients with severe symptoms in the past fortnight. None had seen it before. “People who come to private doctors have money. So it means the middle classes are starving,” said one.

In a few weeks the rainy season will begin and planting ought to be in full swing, yet the sight of a ploughed field anywhere in Zimbabwe is rare. Government promises of fertiliser and maize seeds are, for another year, proving empty. “What harvest?” a doctor joked.

At Changadzi village in the south of the province, Celestina Sithole was surrounded by hard, barren earth. Her daughter had the red hair of kwashiorkor. The stores of maize had run out and that morning she had made porridge for her children from the pods of baobab trees. She did not know what she was going to make for lunch. Doctors tell of people drawing up rosters, with one person given “sadza”, a stiff maizemeal porridge that is the national staple, while the rest eat only boiled cabbage.

The Government is doing its best to cover up the situation. Most doctors are told not to talk about the situation publicly — which is why for their own safety many of those The Times spoke to are not identified. “We are not allowed to appeal to the donor organisations,” added one, “it’s terrible because so often help is so close, but we can do nothing about it.”

When Zimbabwe’s Government does spend money on the health sector it does not help the people. Three months ago the Central Bank allocated $5 million (£3 million,) which was used to buy imported cars for the state’s 100 or so specialist doctors. President Mugabe’s expulsion of white farmers from their farms since 2000 precipitated the crisis.

“The situation can be salvaged if aid agencies are allowed to distribute food,” said one senior doctor sounding a note of hope. “But the trouble is Mugabe and Zanu (PF) (who) think, ‘So what if people starve?’. If they hold on, it will be another Ethiopia.”

South Africa will not act and the AU will not act for fear of setting a precedent against themselves. Zimbabwe has no oil so the west does not care and China simply trades with Mugabe in items for jewels so he can build his mansion.

The so-called Christian Church in South Africa is virtually silent. Desmond Tutu is as a dumb dog. Everyone seems helpless or unwilling to act.

The problems in Zimbabwe should not draw our attention away from Kenya either. We do not have an infrastructure in Zimbabwe even if we could act. We are only in South Africa there. However we do have an infrastructure in Kenya and Uganda and Central and West Africa. The problems in Kenya, following on from the political violence there, are only being felt now. The tragedy is that over 350,000 subsistence farmers were displaced in the violence and that accounted for 75% of the maize crop. Aside from the fact that the US is pouring its maize into motor vehicles, the Kenyans eat white maize and they can’t afford to compete with the western oil corporations.

We will be raising an African web section on the Church web sites. On that section we will make you aware of how you can help those in need and save and clothe orphans and the needy. You can help provide water and the capacity to grow crops and the means of educating children.

15% of the US access is from African Americans. You can help. All of us can help.

One of the problems we face is making sure that none of the funds are caught up in administration. To that end we use an all volunteer force.

There is one word of caution. Do not fund anyone who asks you for money directly in Africa. Make sure they are with a Church of God and even in Tanzania the use of one of the names of the Churches of God there has been registered by those removed from that church.

We can all help, by funds or by prayer. Some of these people live from hand to mouth and most on a dollar a day.

A little helps a lot and God loves a cheerful giver.

Wade Cox

Coordinator General