Thousands of people at risk of starvation in southern Africa are to receive emergency help thanks to caring Freemasons across Derbyshire.
A grant of £50,000 is winging its way from the county’s Masonic Lodges to help provide emergency food packs and urgent humanitarian assistance.
It is estimated that 45 million people across southern Africa are likely to be affected by record high temperatures and low rainfall, which have led to the worst drought there for 35 years.
The Freemasons, their families, and friends have contributed to the grant, which is being passed on by the Masonic Charitable Foundation (MCF) to the charity, Plan International UK.
Michael Hitchcock, of Derbyshire Freemasons, said: “I am very pleased that we have been able to help Plan International with its relief effort in southern Africa.
“It is clear that millions of people are at risk of a serious lack of food and clean water.
“This is a desperate situation, and Plan International and the other organisations helping on the ground need all the help and support we in the outside world can offer.”
Ross Caldwell, chief executive of Plan International, said: “We are very grateful for this generous grant from Derbyshire Freemasons which will allow us to reach thousands of people suffering from severe shortages of food.
“It is critical that we act now to provide this support to those most at risk.”
A clear indication of the severity of the crisis is that the world-famous Victoria Falls has been reduced to a trickle.
Also, Lake Kariba, a critical source of water for both Zambia and Zimbabwe, is only 16 per cent full. Seventy per cent of rural water sources in Zimbabwe have dried up.
Last year, Cyclones Idai and Kenneth caused widespread and destructive flooding across the region, leaving already fragile communities in a poor state to deal with this fresh catastrophe.
The price of food has also risen sharply, forcing many families to cut the quantity and frequency of meals.
They often forego healthcare too, while many children are missing school to help support their families, and this is affecting their long-term futures
The MCF awards millions of pounds each year to help young and vulnerable people, and to advance medical research.