Cornmeal outreach aids flooded Zambians

LUSAKA, Zambia (BP)--About 100 families in an isolated area on Zambia's Lunsemfwa River will be receiving food assistance after heavy rains and flooding wiped out their crops and some homes.

In early March, Kevin Rodgers, a Baptist Global Response field partner, will be trucking 55-pound bags of cornmeal to a river landing, where the bags will be loaded onto a rubber boat and taken 30 minutes up the river.

"The boat can only hold about 500 pounds of cargo, so it will take 15 to 20 trips over two days to move the entire shipment," said Mark Hatfield, who leads Baptist Global Response work in sub-Saharan Africa. "The Lunsemfwa River has lots of hippo and crocodile, so there's plenty of adventure in this small project."

The only other access to the area requires several days of walking, Hatfield said.

In mid-January, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa declared a national disaster in the country's flooded districts.

"All our maize stocks have since been washed away," Chief Sianjalika, a traditional leader in one of the flooded areas, told a reporter. "We have remained with completely nothing. My people are starving, even their goats and chickens have all disappeared."

Families in the area will be able to replant maize along the river once the waters recede and should be able to see a harvest in a few months, Rodgers said. A hunger crisis is emerging, however, because fields that were supposed to be maturing right now are gone. The bags of cornmeal should be enough to tide them over until residents can bring in a new harvest.

In addition to providing destitute people with needed food relief, this effort also will help improve future working relationships in a remote area where outsiders, especially Westerners, are not trusted, Rodgers added.

"This will be an opportunity to show love and support for their human needs in a crisis situation, without developing dependency," Rodgers said. "It gives us an opportunity to minister to a large group of people at one time and also the credibility to be allowed to start new projects in the future."

The project is being financed with $3,200 from the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, one of the ways Southern Baptists who care reach out to people in need, Hatfield said.

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Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly. Baptist Global Response is on the Web at www.gobgr.org.

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