Zim food crisis worsens

HARARE - Food insecurity levels have worsened to 79 percent from 30 percent in most drought-stricken provinces of Zimbabwe, a senior principal director in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Albert Chikondo, said.

He said despite government efforts to assist the affected people, there was need for the “United Nations (UN) to increase its support”.

According to the latest Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Zimvac) report, an estimated 4, 1 million Zimbabweans will be food insecure between January and March 2017 due to the El Nino-induced drought.

Areas hardest hit by the drought are Matabeleland and Masvingo provinces, where dam levels are as low as 11 percent.

Zimbabwe is among southern African countries that have been ravaged by the El Nino drought.

Chikondo said government has managed to acquire 216 000 metric tonnes of grain.

“We have embarked on a programme to farm 400 000 hectares of land. However, despite government endeavours to ensure those in need get assistance, the UN should also scale up its support,” Chikondo said.

UN resident coordinator, Bishow Parajuli, said his organisation planned to reach as many people as possible, despite the challenges that many aid agencies and workers face.

He said of the required $360 million in drought response action, $190 million has been raised by aid agencies and will be extended to other vulnerable groups in urban areas and migrants.

“We project that the people in need will increase in the rural population from 30 percent to 49 percent, that is approximately 4, 5 million people during the peak of the lean season from January to March 2017,” Parajuli said.

USAid mission director, Stephanie Funk, said with the help of the World Food Programme (WFP), they have a robust exercise that enables them to identify the most vulnerable members in the communities, regardless of political affiliation.

“People who are sick, those with young children and those in abject poverty are identified. If there is any instance of food going in the wrong direction or people that are in need not receiving it then they should report to the help desk so that we respond to such complaints,” Funk said.

According to the Southern African Development Community, an estimated 41 million people are food insecure, of which 21 million are in urgent need of food.

Meanwhile, at least 30 000 people are set to receive humanitarian assistance in form of mobile cash transfers from aid organisations, as the country battles to stay afloat in the face of a ravaging El Niño drought.

According to an Oxfam Zimbabwe Humanitarian Response report as at July 2016, over 11 000 people in Matobo District, Matabeleland South, have been beneficiaries of cash transfers from Garden Trust and CAT Fund.

“A further 19 205 people are expected to have received cash transfers from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) in Zimbabwe and Irish Aid between July and October 2016, “ the report said.

With water sources drying up, aid organisations are working to increase access to clean water by rehabilitating boreholes and water sources.

“Oxfam’s assessment in the target districts highlight severe food insecurity at community level, loss of crops, absence of carryover stocks and asset loss including critical water shortages are impacting the targeted communities,” the report said.

“The current interventions by Oxfam in Zimbabwe include cash transfers to affected population to ensure that food security at the household level is addressed,” the report added.

However, Zimbabwe’s cash crisis which weakened the banking system has made it increasingly difficult to speedily deliver assistance to vulnerable groups.

The phenomenon has left aid agencies exploring other options of providing assistance including use of food vouchers and general food distribution.

Oxfam said it is working on plans to support affected households with agriculture and livestock support initiatives.

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