THE World Food Programme (WFP) is expanding its emergency operation in Zimbabwe with plans to assist more than four million people deemed food insecure by next month, amid revelations that drought has plunged more than seven million people into severe hunger.
The development comes at a time when the country is facing another poor rainfall season as the effects of climate change begin to manifest. The emergency operation seeks to complement Government’s efforts with WFP saying it will double the number of people it is helping to 4,1 million by providing life-saving rations of cereal, pulses and vegetable oil and a protective nutrition ration for children less than five years of age as it scales up efforts to avert further starvation in the country.
In a statement, WFP executive director Mr David Beasley said funds were required immediately, if the organisation was to meet the growing needs of the hardest-hit Zimbabweans.
“We are deep into a vicious cycle of sky-rocketing malnutrition that’s hitting women and children hardest and will be tough to break. With poor rain forecast yet again in the run-up to the main harvest in April, the scale of hunger in the country is going to get worse before it gets better,” said Mr Beasley.
He said Zimbabwe’s hunger crisis was the worst in more than a decade and was part of an unprecedented climate-driven disaster gripping Southern Africa.
“Temperatures in the region are rising at more than twice the average global rate and ever more erratic rainy seasons are hitting the country’s subsistence farmers hard. The crisis is being exacerbated by a dire shortage of foreign currency, runaway inflation, mounting unemployment, lack of fuel, prolonged power outages and large-scale livestock losses, afflicting urban residents and rural villagers alike,” said Mr Beasley.
He said WFP’s planned scale-up was a huge logistical undertaking, with the limited availability of Zimbabwean dollars and surging prices for basics presaging a near wholesale switch from cash assistance to food distributions.
“It envisages the sourcing, purchase and delivery to the land-locked country of more than 240 000 tonnes of commodities through June, a challenge all the more daunting because drought and flooding have eroded food supplies across much of Africa. An estimated US$293 million is required for WFP’s emergency response with less than 30 percent of that sum having been secured. We must not let our immediate focus on emergency aid distract us from investing in the resilience programmes that will help chronically hungry people cope with the ever-more severe impacts of erratic weather,” Mr Beasley said.
He added: “We urge the international community to step up funding to address the root causes of long-term hunger in Zimbabwe.”
Labour and Social Welfare Deputy Minister Lovemore Matuke said Government had already deployed resources into affected areas and had also identified water bodies to grow maize. He confirmed the dire situation saying the Government was working hand in glove with its partners to make sure no one dies of hunger.
“The Government is working towards averting the drought situation. Efforts by NGOs and other organisations are well appreciated and also add to efforts by the Government to sustain our nation in so far as food security is concerned. We will be working closely with organisations that seek to assist our country.
“Furthermore, we have been importing a lot of maize from South Africa and we want to work towards growing our own. In that light the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement has managed to identify a significant number of water bodies, which will be used to grow maize, as a complementary measure to reduce imports,” said Matuke.