UNICEF Zimbabwe Humanitarian Situation Report – January – December 2020


  • A total of 19,807 children (10,835 girls and 8,972 boys) aged 6 to 59 months with SAM and MAM were admitted to community-based treatment programmes
  • Between January and December 2020, a total of 753,362 people (417,388 males, 335,974 females) were reached with safe water
  • By 30 December, 1,830,489 people (1,031,371 females and 799,118 males) had accessed treatment for common illness (diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia)
  • UNICEF reached 17.9 million people with life-saving messages
  • In 2020, 645,750 people (347,517 females, 298,233 males) were reached with safe water
  • By November, a cumulative total of 1,077 radio lessons had been developed, and 988 primary and secondary school lessons had been broadcast reaching a total of 1.25 million learners
  • Between January and December, a total of 128,692 children (66,217 girls, 46,649 boys and 15,826 children with disabilities) were reached with community-based psychosocial support (PSS) interventions
  • By December, 6,139 beneficiary households had received emergency social cash transfers in Highfields and Gutu

Funding Overview and Partnerships

UNICEF is appealing for US$ 84 million to meet the increased humanitarian needs in the country in 2021 as a result of the multiple hazards of drought, residual impacts of Cyclone Idai and floods, diarrheal disease outbreaks, and economic crisis compounded by the current COVID-19 outbreak. As of 31 December 2020, funds totalling about US$ 17.7 million (17 per cent of the total 2020 funding requirement – excluding COVID-19 funding) has been received from various donors that include CERF, China, ECHO, Japan, USA BPRM, US Fund for UNICEF, USA (OFDA) and UNICEF Global Thematic. Other donors, including, German, KfW, DFID, SIDA, Irish Government, EU and GAVI have approved reprogramming of the development funds to support COVID-19 response.

Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs

During 2020, humanitarian needs in Zimbabwe continued to escalate triggered by the deepening economic crisis and the worsening impact of drought, floods, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In March 2020, the HRP projected a total of 7 million people, including 3.2 million children, in Zimbabwe to be in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection. In addition, 2.2 million people in urban areas were estimated to be “cereal food insecure,” according to the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) analysis of August 2019. At the beginning of the year, approximately 95,000 children under age 5 were suffering from acute malnutrition, with a national global acute malnutrition (GAM) prevalence at 3.6 per cent and a total of 8 districts recording GAM prevalence of over 5 per cent (ZimVAC rural 2019). The nutrition status of children in Zimbabwe was further compounded by sub-optimal infant and young child feeding practices including very poor dietary diversity at 15 per cent and with only 7 per cent having attained the minimum acceptable diet. The education cluster estimated that 1.2 million (35 per cent) of the more than 3.4 million children of school going age (3 to 12 years), would need emergency or specialized education services in 2020. Access to WASH remained a challenge, particularly during the first half of 2020 with only 30 per cent of the water sources tracked by the rural water information management system (RWIMS) functional and protected.

The humanitarian situation was compounded by the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 which saw, among other measures, the introduction of the national lockdown which virtually shut down economic activities, including the informal sector from which over 90% of Zimbabwe’s working population eke out their living. During the first half of the year, Zimbabwe reported 3,092 cases of COVID-19, 2,042 (66%) of which were local transmissions across the country. By December 2020, with the onset of the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, the situation had exponentially worsened with a total of 14,084 cases. Deaths had increased more than seven-fold from 53 in July to 369 in December 2020.

Access to education was severely affected by the COVID-19 outbreak with closure of schools between March and September 2020. The phased reopening of schools, which began on 14 September with examination classes successfully continued to the second phase on 26 October and the third phase on 9 November 2020. As of 30 November 2020, the number of learners infected with COVID-19 stood at 448 (196 males and 252 females). None of the affected learners has had a serious illness and there were no fatalities amongst learners. A total of 22 teachers (12 males and 10 females) tested positive to the virus, and one death was recorded.

The country’s continuing economic deterioration exacerbated humanitarian needs in 2020 with overall year-on-year inflation at the peak of 980% in April to 571% in October. Through the inflation steadily diminished over time, prices of basic goods and services remained unaffordable for the majority of multi-hazard-impacted Zimbabweans. The country’s health sector was almost paralyzed by a three months long strike by health staff (June to August) which worsened the already precarious situation in the health sector. The results of 2020 rural ZIMVAC which were released in September showed that indeed COVID-19, drought and the deteriorating economic situation had sustained humanitarian needs. Food insecurity was still high at 56% of the rural population and several key indicators were worsening. The global acute malnutrition (GAM) has increased from the 3.6% in 2019 to 4.5% in 2020 with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) at 2% up from 1.4% in 2019.

The onset of the rainy season with the La Nina phenomenon and the projection of a normal to above normal rainfall season has presented additional hazards of flooding, thunderstorms and hailstorms with potential consequences of diarrheal disease outbreaks, particularly in cholera hotspots. Indeed, although the Tropical storm Chalane which made landfall in Zimbabwe on 30 December did not cause major damages, signaled the lingering hazard of cyclones and heavy storms in the 2020 – 2021 rainfall season.

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