Hunger stalks rural Zim areas

Weary rural Zimbabweans fresh from a contested election will now have to grapple with bludgeoning hunger according to the global famine watcher, the World Food Programme (WFP).

WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Last year, WFP reached more than 97 million people in 80 countries with food assistance.

The NGO said in a statement today that 2.2 millon Zimbabweans which is over 10 per-cent of the country’s population face starvation this year.

“Hunger is on the rise in Zimbabwe with an estimated 2.2 million people – one in four of the rural population- expected to need food assistance during the pre-harvest period early next year. This is the highest since early 2009 when more than half the population required food support.

“The extent of predicted hunger is revealed in the recently-published Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) rural livelihoods report which estimates food security levels and identifies affected areas. The study is led by the Government with support from the UN and other partners,” said the WFP statement.

WFP country director Sory Ouane cited dwindling food stocks because of poor harvests particularly in the southern districts of the country that traditionally receive under normal rainfall.

“Many districts, particularly in the south, harvested very little and people are already trying to stretch out their dwindling food stocks.

“WFP is working closely with the Government and partners to respond to the looming food crisis and will start food and cash distributions to the most vulnerable in October,” Ouane said.

To meet the increased needs, WFP and its partners is set to provide regionally-procured cereals as well as imported vegetable oil and pulses. Cash transfers will be used in selected areas to afford people flexibility and help support local markets.

“Distributions will be gradually scaled up from October until harvest time in March next year. The current high levels of food insecurity are being attributed to various factors including adverse weather conditions, the unavailability and high cost of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilisers and projected high cereal prices due to the poor maize harvest.

“WFP monitoring in rural markets has found grain prices 15 percent higher than this time last year. In 2012, for the first time, the Government of Zimbabwe contributed some US$10 million worth of grain from domestic stocks towards a joint relief operation with WFP and partners,” the NGO said.

Zimbabwe, once Africa’s bead-basket has been turned into a basket case since the turn of the century following a chaotic and often violent land redistribution exercised sponsored by President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF party and aimed at addressing skewed colonial land tenure systems.

This coupled with intermittent droughts and adverse climatic conditions as well as shifting rainfall patterns have exacerbated an already desperate situation in a country reeling from a decade old political crisis.

According to the WFP the agency provided food assistance to some 1.4 million people in 37 rural districts.

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