WFP suspends feeding programme

HARARE - The World Food Programme (WFP) has stopped giving food aid to support the schools feeding programme, as Zimbabwe is no longer in a state of crisis.

In an interview with the Daily News, WFP country director Eddie Rowe said their involvement was because of the El Nino-induced drought, which saw the aid agency feeding more than 78 000 school children.

During the 2015/16 agricultural season, the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee estimated that 4,1 million Zimbabweans were food insecure between January and March 2017.

Areas most stricken by the drought were Matabeleland and Masvingo provinces, where dam levels were as low as 11 percent.

“We will not be to schools this year. Last year, we did it because of the gravity of the food shortages and the impact it had on school learners, who, as a result of hunger, had dropped out of school.  Our school feeding intervention last year was part of the El Nino drought response,” Rowe said.

“It was not a standalone school feeding exercise. Our aim now will be to support government both technically and logistically to establish its own home grown school feeding programme. During the lean season, we know that there will be cereals that will be distributed as part of this exercise. Currently, we have been catering for the relish at schools,” he said.

He said while this year’s food insecurity numbers have dropped to 1,1 million, WFP would still provide other aid to nearly 70 percent of that population.

“It is not a strange thing that even with a good harvest we have about 12 or 14 percent of food insecure people, who either did not cultivate, do not have land or have livelihoods that are directly tied to agriculture. We will be focusing in the most food insecure regions and we expect that by the peak hunger time in January we will be reaching about 600 000 people,” he said.

While a lot of food aid was distributed during the drought season, many non-governmental organisations accused government of politicising the humanitarian assistance.

A report released by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission last year revealed that Zanu PF members were the worst perpetrators of politicising food aid.

The report showed that elderly members of the community with family that was actively involved in opposition politics were being denied food aid.

Zimbabwe Peace Project released a report in April 2016 which also indicated that traditional leaders and councillors excluded members of opposition political parties from receiving food aid.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network estimated that there were 1,6 million people that require immediate food assistance in 2015/2016 season.

Netherlands Ambassador to Zimbabwe Gera Sneller also warned government against politicising food aid arguing that everyone in need should be assisted regardless of which political party they belong to.

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