With Covid-19 aggravating an already severe hunger crisis in Zimbabwe, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) yesterday appealed for an additional US$250 million to support a rapidly expanding emergency operation for millions at risk.
WFP projections indicate that by year’s end, the number of food insecure Zimbabweans will have surged by almost 50 percent to touch 8,6 million — a staggering 60 percent of the population — owing to the combined effects of drought, economic recession and the pandemic.
“Many Zimbabwean families are suffering the ravages of acute hunger, and their plight will get worse before it gets better”, said Lola Castro, WFP’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“We need the international community to step up now to help us prevent a potential humanitarian catastrophe.”
A nationwide lockdown, reinforced last week, has precipitated massive joblessness in urban areas, while rural hunger is accelerating because now unemployed migrants are returning to their villages and the absence of the vital remittances they provided is more keenly felt. Subsistence farming families who make up three-quarters of Zimbabwe’s population and produce most of its food are also hurting because of a third successive drought-hit harvest this year. It yielded only 1,1 million MT of maize, the staple cereal, well down on last year’s already poor 2,4 million MT and less than half the national requirement.
This, in turn, presages even more severe hunger in early 2021, the peak of the next “lean” season.
Hyperinflation is a feature of the country’s profound economic crisis and has pushed the prices of basics beyond the means of many Zimbabweans.