by John Carey A serious famine is imminent in Rhodesia unless the Rhodesian government and the leaders of the Patriotic Front guerrillas act at once to avert it, according to a statement issued last week by the British Council of Churches.
In particular, they should undertake to observe Article 54 of the Geneva Convention, which forbids the starvation of civilians, and allow the International Red Cross to distribute food wherever it thought necessary, the statement said.
The BCC urged the British Government to do all it could to obtain such an undertaking and to enlist the support of the United Nations and its agencies such as the World Food Programme.
It warned: "An overwhelming human tragedy appears to be imminent, not only in terms of starvation over the next few months for the large proportion of the six million Africans who are in the war zones but also in its longer term consequences."
"The malnourished babies of today — if they survive — will become the Zimbabwean citizens of tomorrow. For Zimbabwe it is likely to prove a tragic irony that 1979 has been designated by the UN as the Year of the Child."
Recently it has become clear that Rhodesian security forces have been preventing food entering areas where guerrillas were operating. The guerrillas arc also said to be only allowing supplies in if they can distribute them. The war has also prevented crops from being grown and large numbers of cattle have died from disease.
According to the statement the only durable solution was a quick end to the war and a political settlement that would facilitate a massive relief operation. But this was impossible at the moment and some temporary measures were essential.
• Frelimo, the ruling party in Mozainbique, has ordered new measures against the Catholic Church in the country, according to reports reaching Europe in the last few weeks.
An Austrian news agency reported recently that Bishop Ferreira da Silva of Lichinga had been arrested when returning from a visit to a missionary outpost. Two missionary priests accompanying him were also detained, the agency said.
They were forced to walk barefoot to jail and after being released, they were placed under house arrest in the bishop's house, the report said.
The diocese of Lichinga in northern Mozambique is one of the areas said to be most seriously affected by the crackdown. Another is Pemba, also in the north. There missionary work has apparently been made almost impossible with missionaries forbidden to visit outlying Christian communities and under virtual house arrest in thier mission stations.