12 Days of Giveaways - Spin & Win! Sign up before Dec. 25th to win daily prizes and a $250 Amazon.com Gift Card. Find out details.

Churches in Malawi Confront Aids and Famine

Churches in Malawi Confront Aids and Famine

One of the first churches in Malawi to address the HIV/AIDS crisis ravaging southern Africa, is now facing the effects of famine, according to a press release from World Relief. In a region where discussing HIV/AIDS is considered shameful, Chididi Holy Trinity Church of Nkhota Kota pushed past the cultural taboos to speak openly about HIV/AIDS with its youth.

The church also moved beyond conventional boundaries and embraced extended families left caring for HIV/AIDS orphans. In September, the church dedicated a nursery school to provide a safe place for the neighborhood children orphaned by AIDS to play and learn. Of the 134 children immediately registered, 75 percent have lost one or both parents to AIDS.

But five months later, only about half of these children are now attending because they are too weak from lack of food. News reports indicate 300 people have died in Malawi from famine so far, but Stella Kasirye, World Relief's Malawi country representative, is sure the number is underreported.

In response, World Relief is providing emergency grain to meet immediate needs, and is investigating longer-term responses. "April will be the most critical month," Kasirye says, "because that is just before harvest time." She says the harvest will be poor this year because people have already eaten so much of the unripened maize greens in the fields just to survive and because they did not have access to fertilizers this year. "In July and August, the crisis will hit again and survival will be a major challenge through April of next year."