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What are the current issues in Zimbabwe

In recent years, food production in Zimbabwe has been devastated by a number of factors including natural disasters andeconomic and political instability. Recurrent drought, a series of poor harvests, high unemployment (estimated at more than 60%), restructuring of the agriculture sector and a high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate – at 14.7 per cent, the fifth highest in the world - have all contributed to increasing levels of vulnerability and acute food insecurity since 2001. This situation has necessitated large-scale humanitarian food reliefoperations in the country.

Zimbabwe is a low-income, food-deficit country, ranked 156 out of 187 countries according to the 2013 UNDP Human Development Index. Currently, 72 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line (less than US$ 1.25 per day). Some 30 percent of the rural poor are considered to be ‘food poor’ or ‘extremely poor’. Although the prevalence of HIV has been reduced, it still remains high with nearly 15 percent of adults living with HIV – many of whom also suffer from malnutrition due to food insecurity.

Zimbabwe’s 2013/14 agricultural production is estimated to be 1,456,000 metric tonnes (mt)—an increase from the 798,500 mt produced in the previous agricultural season. Consequently, the food security situation has improved compared to previous years. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC), led by the Government with support various partners and WFP, recently published the 2014 Rural Livelihoods Assessment report. The ZimVAC report identified approximately 6 percent of the rural population—equivalent to 565,000 people—will be in need of food assistance at the height of lean season between January and March 2015. This estimate is down from the 2.2 million food insecure people during last year’s lean season.

Despite this decrease, food and nutrition security remains fragile and subject to natural and economic shocks in Zimbabwe, with chronic and persistent rates of undernourishment. One third of Zimbabwe’s children are stunted, or short for their age. Additionally, the country continues to face economic stress with implications on food security, especially for vulnerable groups in rural areas. Due to deflation, household incomes are likely to remain low and liquidity challenges affect aggregate demand for goods and services, especially for poor households. Barter will be a common form of exchange. In the case that grain is used for such transactions, household food stocks are likely to get exhausted at a faster rate.

Meanwhile, rural poverty has increased from 63 percent in 2003 to 76 percent in 2014. Most households in the rural areas are net food buyers: they do not (for a number of reasons) produce enough food to meet their needs through to the next harvest season. Consequently, they rely on markets and other non-farm sources such as casual labour to bridge the food gap to the next season. As such, a number of people in rural areas will struggle to meet their daily food needs.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Zimbabwe

WFP’s Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) 200453—Responding to Humanitarian Needs and Strengthening Resilience to Food Insecurity—promotes a transition from emergency assistance to recovery while maintaining a capacity for emergency response. The programme strikes a balance between direct implementation by WFP and support to the national Government to enhance national safety-net systems. The three main activities under the PRRO are:

Disaster response and risk reduction (Conditional Lean Season Assistance): The programme provides food assistance for seasonally food-insecure vulnerable households. The programme also supports national capacity development for disaster response and risk management.
Health and nutrition promotion: In addition to Moderately Acutely Malnourished (MAM) HIV/AIDS and TB clients, WFP assists MAM pregnant and nursing women and children under five at clinics. A stunting prevention programme is being implemented in a district where WFP is already implementing MAM treatment.
Food assistance/cash for assets (FFA/CFA): In line with WFP’s new strategic direction in Zimbabwe, these activities build resilience through the creation of productive community assets. Activities promote self-reliance, reduce disaster risk, empower vulnerable communities to move away from dependency on food assistance, and support climate change adaption.

Featured Zimbabwe publications

  • Zimbabwe: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 421 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

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