While Utah deals with the minor challenges of its own drought, in southern Africa people are near starvation because of drought-related crop failures. Now, some Utahns are pitching in to help people half way around the world.

News reports say Malawi, among other countries, is suffering its worst drought in 50 years, affecting some 20-million people. Residents of Zimbabwe and Madagascar are also hard hit.

Tonight and tomorrow Salt Lake area humanitarian aid volunteers are rallying to the Church’s Welfare Square to assemble 6,750 emergency food boxes destined for families in the drought-affected areas of those nations. The boxes will be loaded on shipping containers that will leave for Zimbabwe this Friday as part of the Church’s initial response to the famine.

“We have reports from relief agencies that if crops in these countries fail again, the effects of starvation will be unimaginable,” says Garry Flake, director of Church Humanitarian Services. “The descriptions of what this famine is doing to children is painful to hear.”

About 200 Church members are volunteering their time to pack the emergency food boxes. In addition to the food boxes, the Church is shipping four large containers of clothing. Also, the Church is purchasing 250 tons of cereal grains from countries neighboring the drought areas to help famine victims.