Action International's Role in Africa Famine Relief

Our offices get many questions concerning accountability. Some churches inquire about accountability of our missionaries overseas, many are interested in what percentage of their funds goes to the field after administration, and some ask us about the use of project funds.

Our largest project of late has been raising funds for famine relief in Africa. We are grateful to our ACTION constituency for rising to the occasion and providing food for many who are facing starvation in East Central Africa. A foundation which recently made a grant for this purpose sent us several questions. Doug Nichols, International Director, sent these questions to Glenn Ripley, our Zambia Team Leader, for comment. I found the answers fascinating, and would like to share them with you. They provide a glimpse into how giving actually results in food for villagers as well as the steps that are taken to safeguard the funds. We invite your prayers for this process since no system is infallible, and needs are greater than we are able to meet. I do think the process is encouraging. I hope this information will also serve to raise your awareness of what is happening in East Central Africa.

1. How secure are the funds given for famine relief when they are sent to Zambia?
We have had funds wired to our Zambia Barclay's account for several months now and have not had any problems. Wire transfers are tracked and the funds used as quickly as possible to minimize risk. If desired, funds could even remain in U. S. banks until the time of food purchase, though we haven't had any problems thus far.

2. How are the funds actually translated into food? What's the process?
Food is purchased locally through wholesale dealers. Negotiations have just been completed for 1000 metric tons of maize at a very good price. Transport is arranged through the wholesaler, or through separate transport providers.

3. What would actually be purchased for $25,000? How many people are fed with this? How many bags of food?
We are currently buying maize at wholesale prices of $225 to $240 per metric ton; transport is 7 to 9 cents per kilometer/ton. The current ration for maize is 10 kg/person/month, so about 100 people can be fed per ton/month In addition to the maize ration, beans or other forms of protein are also being provided. As a rough estimate, using $250 per ton, including transport, $1000 will buy four metric tons and feed 400 people/month. $25,000 will buy about 100 metric tons and will feed 10,000 people for a month!

4. Do the food recipients hear the Gospel? How is evangelism done with the food distribution?
All distribution is done through local churches, providing a wide opportunity for the Gospel. In some cases, messages are preached at the time of distribution. In other cases, the Word may be shared in advance or during follow-up contacts. I have just returned from four days in a remote village where I was able to share the Gospel with about 100 people during a planning visit. In every case, the recipients understand that the food is coming from a local evangelical church and this opens the door to future evangelistic outreach by churches in the communities.

5. Once the check is received, what is the turnaround time for the people to actually get the food? Would it take two or three weeks before food is actually purchased and delivered?
Yes, the turnaround time is currently two to three weeks. Purchase of such large volumes obviously requires detailed planning from purchase through distribution, so some time is required to finalize these details.

6. What is the risk of fraud, stealing, or some chief or warlord taking the food?
Once distribution is made to regional centers, the food is under the control of the partnering churches. The churches have made provisions for security against theft and strict accountability measures have been put into place, both for audit purposes as well as for control against fraud. It is highly unlikely that a chief or headman would try to commandeer a shipment; this would undoubtedly be widely reported in the Zambian press and the public outcry would be enormous. There have been a couple of reports of stolen maize from warehouses, but these have been cases where genetically modified maize was being stockpiled for later distribution.

7. Can confirmation be sent after the food is given, such as a few stories or actual reports of the distribution of the food, with pictures?
Yes, representatives from ACTION or a sister agency will be present for as many distributions as possible and reports will be received from all. Stories and photos will be taken and made available.

You may write a designated check to EPM and 100% will be sent directly to Action International. Or you may write a check to: Action USA, PO Box 398, Mountlake Terrace, WA 98043-0398, or give online: