Zimbabwe is teetering on the brink as people struggle to find clean drinking water, medicines and nutritious food due to Cyclone Idai which has hit Chimanimani earlier this year. “There are some families that go to bed some days without one meal – people are struggling simply because even basic medicines are not available” says Eddie Rowe, World Food Programme (WFP) country representative and director for Zimbabwe.
The country is suffering its worst hunger crisis in more than a decade. “Prices of basic commodities are skyrocketing” says Eddie Rowe, and continues by mentioning that “many products are not even available – we estimate 2.3 million people in about 15 towns and cities are not just food insecure, they are in poverty.” A dire shortage of currency, hyperinflation, lack of fuel, prolonged power outages, a dearth of clean drinking water and large-scale livestock losses are afflicting 2.2 million people in cities and 5.5 million people in rural villages.
With the lean season in full swing, southern Africa is in the grip of unprecedented climate-driven disaster. 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. In the rural areas, WFP is rapidly expanding an already sizeable emergency operation, with drought, flooding and macro-economic meltdown plunging 7.7 million people –half Zimbabwe’s population– into severe hunger.“We aim to scale up to assist more than 4.1 million people by January, which is the peak of the lean season,” says Rowe.
WFP needs US$293 million to be able to fully implement its emergency scale-up through to the end of June, providing life-saving rations of cereals, pulses and vegetable oil and specialized nutritious food for children under 5 years of age. Yet only 30 percent of that figure is currently secured.
Exacerbating problems is unemployment at more than 80 percent, says Rowe. “You have massive numbers of people who cannot find a job” he adds. WFP recently put an ad out to recruit drivers. “PhD holders were applying” he mentions. “People with master’s degrees are selling water in the street… people are deploying all kinds of mechanisms just to survive.” Meanwhile, rural people are moving to urban areas only to find that “basic services are not available, livelihood opportunities are sort of disintegrating”.
One reason for this is that, says Rowe, is that “at WFP, we do not engage with politics so we hardly have opportunities to engage with politicians. Our business is with the communities and with local leadership – that’s where our actions are.” Funds are required immediately, he stresses, if WFP is to meet the growing needs of the hardest-hit Zimbabweans.
Here you can read the full article, while you can also find ways to assist the efforts of WFP to help these people.
Photo: Tatenda Macheka via WFP
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