4.1m people to receive food aid as Zimbabwe drought worsens

Thursday, December 5th, 2019 00:00 |
needy people receive food donations PHOTO/COURTESY

Harare, Wednesday

Roughly a quarter of Zimbabwe’s population will receive food aid from the UN to avert a hunger crisis.

The World Food Programme (WFP) says it will provide 4.1 million Zimbabweans with cereal, pulses and vegetable oil.

Around a half of the country’s population is facing hunger with 7.7 million reported to be experiencing severe hunger.

More than 240,000 metric tons of food commodities will be delivered by WFP to ease the hunger.

“With poor rains 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 WFP executive director David Beasley.

Zimbabwe was once a major food producer in southern Africa but is currently in the middle of a drought and inflation that have both adversely affected food production.

Grain subsidies

Markets are not functioning, WFP country director Eddie Rowe told Reuters.

“We believe if we do not reach out and assist these people then the situation would blow up into a major crisis,” he is quoted as saying.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa government will scrap its plan to remove grain subsidies next year, a move it says will protect impoverished citizens from rising food prices, state media reported last week.

The drought—the worst in 40 years—is causing food insecurity across all of Southern Africa with several countries fearing next year will bring, not just widespread hunger, but famine.

This country was once the breadbasket of Southern Africa - but now climate change combined with bad farming practice and wider economic problems have turned it into an arid desert.

Zimbabwe’s hunger crisis  is 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.

Most of rural Zimbabwe is now without crops, without livestock and without water.

The land is like sand—and the millions trying to live off it are on the brink of starvation.

Like many other rural farmers, Emma Malume has watched three harvests fail on her once-fertile land.

A widow, she is now only able to feed her family one meal a day.

She says she prays for rain every day and is scared her family will starve.

The drought also means thousands of cattle and donkeys have died. With nothing growing there is no food for them and their carcasses litter the fields.

No one is ploughing the fields this year. No one trusts the weather.

And even if they did, no one can afford the seeds they need to buy to re-start their farms. Inflation is running at 300 per cent.

The UN says Zimbabwe is “marching towards starvation” and the challenge is two fold because it isn’t only those in rural areas who are suffering.

Urban areas

Those in urban areas are also going hungry because the climate change challenge is being worsened by economic problems engulfing families trying to exist in the cities.

Water and electricity are in short supply and basic health services close to collapse. The runaway inflation has made the imported shop food unaffordable.

Early hopes that Mnangagwa, who took over from the long-ruling former president Robert Mugabe after a November 2017 coup, would revive the economy are fast fading amid a worsening economic crisis and slow-paced political reforms. -Agencies

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