Long before Bible prophecy books hit the bookstands with dire predictions about coming famines, a major drought and famine was in the making in central west Africa. This year, after five years without appreciable rain and repeated crop failures, a famine of immense proportions has struck at the agriculture-based economies of eight sub-Sahara nations. A death toll of some six million people may result by November, according to one United Nations estimate.

Church and missionary relief agencies have already begun gearing up for what no doubt will be one of the longest emergency relief operations in recent years.

Abandoned villages, children with bloated bellies, and the rotting carcases of millions of head of cattle are mute testimony to the extent of the famine, which affects the nations of Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger Republic, Senegal, Sudan and Upper Volta. The emergency area spreads across 2,600 miles of parched, dust-laden land south of the Sahara desert, stretching across the African continent from the Atlantic to the Red Sea.

Sudan Interior Mission (SIM), the Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA), the World Relief Commission (WRC) of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Assemblies of God, Food for the Hungry (FFH), and Church World Service (CWS) of the National Council of Churches are among the groups engaged in relief work in the affected area.

Said WRC administrative vice-president George Doud: “This is probably the worst disaster we’ve faced. Certainly it’s the most widespread.” He called the current drought and famine “a creeping giant” that rose up through many years of meager rainfall, cattle overgrazing, and poor agricultural planning. Although the area has a long history of drought cycles, ...

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