In February 2009, the Primates of the Anglican Communion unanimously called for a concerted initiative of aid and support for the Church's community work in Zimbabwe.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York launched a joint appeal for Zimbabwe with USPG (who worked in partnership with the Archbishops for this appeal) and the five Anglican dioceses in Zimbabwe began implementing relief and development programmes in local communities across the country.
The humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe is now at an appalling level. It's estimated that perhaps half the population is now under threat of starvation; and the deaths from cholera and ill health continue to rise. The Church remains a trusted deliverer of aid at grass roots level, capable of getting food and medical supplies to those who need them, and we urge everyone, inside and outside the Christian Church, to give this appeal their strong support.Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu (Feb 2009)
Through the Archbishops' Appeal the Church ran supplementary feeding through its church run community schools. In addition to meeting the immediate problem of hunger in local communities; providing free school meals helps to keep children in school with enough energy to learn, as well as reducing the risk of teachers striking under the pressure of low wages.
The majority of Zimbabweans still make their living through subsistence farming. In order to tackle the problem of hunger in the long term local communities need to be empowered to grow enough food for themselves again through farming inputs and training in more effective farming methods.
In response to this the Anglican dioceses have been distributing seed to local households ready for the planting season this autumn. They also ran a programme called Farming God's Way. The programme teaches new and highly successful conservation farming methods alongside biblical rationale for better stewardship of God's creation. By training Priests and Mothers' Union members in each diocese to be trainers in local communities, the church is getting the message and skills of sustainable farming to the people that need it most.
In a joint statement about the appeal (in May 2009), the Archbishops said:
"The support of the general public has been overwhelming, and we have been humbled by the response so far. We know that rebuilding Zimbabwe is a long-term aim, and this short intervention is still only reaching a small number of the many millions in need. Thank you for enabling us to do this.
"Our brother Bishops in Zimbabwe have highlighted the need for immediate relief activities to address the cholera epidemic and starvation, but also that we support programmes that provide long term solutions to poverty. So at their request we will be providing seed-corn for crops in time for the planting season which normally starts end of October.
"More of the dioceses of Zimbabwe are expected to send in their specific requirements in the next few weeks, and they have told us that their focus will be on the most vulnerable in their communities; those living with HIV, the elderly as well as children.
"Whilst we know that food is the first priority we have also committed to buy medicines, initially for six clinics, and we expect the first of these vital medical supplies to be dispatched in the next weeks.
Three dioceses, those of Central Zimbabwe, Masvingo and Matabeleland, are the first ones to roll out the supplementary feeding programme in schools, and Easter week saw the first food distributed through the Church schools.
The Rt Revd Michael Doe, General Secretary of USPG; Anglicans in World Mission said:
"We've been astounded by the response of the General Public, and we thank all those that have supported the Archbishops' appeal over Lent – we know of many more churches and dioceses who have pledged to support the appeal in the Easter season and beyond."
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote in The Times about the appeal and that lives can still be saved; and more importantly hope can be sustained if we continue to support the Church in Zimbabwe as a vehicle of promise and a guarantor of the human dignity so fearfully insulted by the current regime.