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Tonga suffering relieved by Baptist food project comment (0)

January 1, 2009

BINGA, Zimbabwe –– Southern Baptists have brought badly needed relief to an isolated region of Zimbabwe, where a national political impasse — compounded by hyperinflation, a cholera epidemic and a burgeoning food crisis — have brought the country near the point of collapse.

Zimbabwe’s government declared a national emergency Dec. 4 because of the cholera epidemic, which has spread across the entire country — claiming at least 565 lives — according to news reports. The inflation rate has been estimated at 231 million percent, and United Nations food analysts believe the hunger crisis will grow worse in the spring because many families have eaten seeds needed for planting.

People in Zimbabwe are growing more desperate by the day, said Susan Hatfield, who with her husband, Mark, directs work in Sub-Saharan Africa for Baptist Global Response (BGR).

Far from major cities like Harare and Bulawayo, the Tonga people on Lake Kariba, along Zimbabwe’s border with Zambia, receive very little assistance from the central government in dealing with their hunger. International Mission Board (IMB) worker Daren Davis reported seeing telltale signs that hunger was becoming a serious problem among the Tonga.

Davis zeroed in on the Tonga homeland as an area where targeted Southern Baptist relief could make a difference and on Nov. 17, IMB workers from Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa gathered in Binga, a town on the southeastern shore of Lake Kariba, to deliver 500 boxes of food and soap provided by BGR. The food boxes were part of a larger project conducted by BGR to mobilize relief in the country through resources provided by the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund. 

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