Africare: Early 1980s

Ethiopia and up to 30 other African countries were devastated by the 1984-1986 continent-wide drought. Africare worked on the front lines of the response.


"Africare is Americans ― black and white ― working with African planners to offset the effects of present and future drought," noted entertainer Roberta Flack (above, left), an early supporter of Africare.






"No group has addressed Africa's agricultural problems better than Africare. In Africa, Africans and Americans working through Africare have joined together as partners in mutual respect , to understand and nurture and use the land."

— Vice President
George H. W. Bush

The year 1985 marked Africare's 15th anniversary. By that time, Africare was working in the five major regions of Africa; it had assisted 23 of the 36 countries it would reach by 2005; and all that work — the first 15 years of program assistance — had been accomplished at a cost of just $39 million.

"We need Africare to spread all over Africa," urged the Zambian official, Dr. Siteke G. Mwale, in 1981. By 1985, a young, energetic Africare was well on its way.

Development work continued to proliferate — from food, water and environmental projects, to rural health assistance and "women in development" initiatives. Emergency aid was ongoing in Somalia, home to a million refugees from Ethiopia's Ogaden region. Refugee relief began in Rwanda and Chad. In 1981, Africare was among the first private U.S. organizations invited by the newly independent Zimbabwe (formerly named "Rhodesia") to provide aid.

Stateside participation also kept growing. For example:

  • Volunteer Africare Chapters were active in numerous cities.
  • Overall private giving both increased and diversified.
  • African-American individuals and organizations continued to heed Africa's call.
  • Africare was admitted to the International Service Agencies (now, "Global Impact") workplace-giving federation.
  • Africare Day became a well-known Africa event in Washington.
  • Students competed for the first prize, a trip to Africa, in Africare's D.C. Public High School Africa Essay Contest.
  • The African Development Education Program, a multiyear, nationwide initiative, was launched in 1984.

That same year, Africare co-sponsored the Minority Involvement in Development Conference, held in Washington, D.C. Stated the conference coordinator, educator Marie Davis Gadsden, Ph.D., "The time for minority involvement is now."


More Africare history

Early 1970s: "The task undertaken by Africare is immense" 
Late 1970s: "Courage to stand firmly against great odds"  
Early 1980s: "We need Africare to spread all over Africa"
Late 1980s: "A crucial threshold"  
Early 1990s: "I profoundly believe in Africa"  
Late 1990s: "The cusp of a new millennium"  
Since 2000: "There are no Africare programs, only African programs" 

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