WFP has announced that it plans to provide assistance to up to 3.3 million Zimbabweans facing severe food shortages over the next eight months, and called on donors to contribute urgently towards the US$118 million cost of its massively expanded aid operation.
“Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans are already starting to run out of food and several million more will be reliant on humanitarian assistance by the end of the year,” said Amir Abdulla, WFP’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
Averting widepread hunger
“WFP plans to feed more than 10 times the current number of beneficiaries over the next eight months to avert the threat of widespread hunger, but to do this we need more donations –
Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans are already starting to run out of food and several million more will be reliant on humanitarian assistance by the end of the year
Amir Abdulla, WFP’s Regional Director for Southern Africa
and we need them immediately,” he said.
WFP has 138,000 metric tons of food already in stock or in the pipeline for Zimbabwe but still needs another 207,000 tons of cereals and other commodities valued at US$118 million to cover its increased relief activities from now until the next main harvest in April 2008.
Without additional funds, WFP’s food stocks will begin to run dry in September and will be completely exhausted by December, just as the crisis reaches its peak.
Peak hunger period
WFP currently assists 300,000 people per month in Zimbabwe. From September, WFP plans to channel assistance through its vulnerable group feeding programme to some 1.3 million people – a figure that will almost double to 2.5 million in October before rising to 3.3 million from November through to March next year, the peak hunger period in Zimbabwe.
But these figures are subject to donations arriving in time to enable WFP to procure food in the region without delay.
In addition, a group of US-sponsored non governmental organizations known as C-SAFE plans to distribute food to another 800,000 vulnerable Zimbabweans, giving a combined total of 4.1 million people – the peak number estimated by early next year to be in need of assistance by the Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission conducted by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WFP in May this year.
Severe food shortages
The combination of a poor harvest and Zimbabwe’s worsening economic turmoil have left tens of thousands of families in rural and urban areas facing the prospect of very severe food shortages, especially in the drought-ravaged southern provinces.
The situation has also been exacerbated by soaring poverty, hyperinflation and the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS.
Without assistance, vulnerable families will be forced to adopt risky survival measures, including eating potentially poisonous wild foods, selling their remaining household assets, exchanging sex for food and crossing illegally into South Africa.
“Along with our partners and donors, WFP has helped to save the lives of millions of hungry Zimbabweans over the past five years as well as stopping them from having to resort to desperate measures such as prostitution or migration,” said Abdulla.
“With sufficient funds, WFP will be able to help millions more to cope with this latest crisis,” he said.