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MCC ships food to Zimbabwe amid political tensions

Tim Shenk
April 17, 2008

AKRON, Pa. – Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is shipping 77 metric tons of wheat and soybeans to Zimbabwean communities where food has become scarce due to drought and economic turmoil.

The shipment is coming at a time of heightened uncertainty as Zimbabwe's main political parties dispute the results of national elections on March 29. The country has faced economic difficulties for years, and political tensions are creating new hardships, according to Prosper Dube, a food relief coordinator for Zimbabwe's Brethren in Christ Church.

In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, Dube said that many residents are stocking up on groceries out of anxiety over the political situation.

"We want to be as close as possible to our homes, because we don't know what's going to happen," Dube said.

MCC's food shipment is intended to provide daily lunches for about 2,500 high school students in Matobo district, a rural area of Matebeleland South province. There are several Brethren in Christ Church congregations in Matobo district, according to Marcellin Danhouno, an MCC Zimbabwe representative.

Dube, who is organizing the distribution, said that food shortages have worsened in Matobo district in recent years.

Farmers lost their crops due to drought last year, and many do not have seed to replant, he said.

Zimbabwe's national economic problems, including hyperinflation and widespread unemployment, are also taking their toll in Matobo district, he said. Food disappeared from local shops as wholesale prices rose beyond what shopkeepers could afford. Working-age adults left their families to seek work in neighboring countries.

A growing number of local teenagers are showing signs of malnutrition, Dube said. Underlining this trend, a Zimbabwean newspaper recently reported that teenage girls are turning to prostitution in Matobo district.

"The community leaders in that area, they said that was due to hunger at the household level," Dube said.

MCC partnered with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to provide the food shipment. The Brethren in Christ Church is planning to begin distributing the food in early May, but political tensions may delay the distribution.

"Due to the political situation we are facing in our country, it's very difficult for us to move to the project area," Dube said.