HARARE More than one million people in Zimbabwe will be unable to meet their food needs during the lean season between now and March, in spite of improvements in the food security situation in recent years.
“Most of the vulnerable households are located in the southern and western regions which are very susceptible to dry spells,” says Country Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), Felix Bamezon. “Agricultural production in these regions was once again poor this season. The situation is made worse by the economic downturn and we’re already seeing families resorting to skipping meals and reducing portion sizes.”
According to the recently released Zimbabwe Vulnerability Rural Livelihoods Assessment (ZIMVAC), 12 percent of the rural population will not have the means to feed themselves adequately during the lean season. Most at risk are low-income families hit by failed harvests, and households with orphans and vulnerable children. Although food is generally available in many rural areas, it is too expensive for those with limited resources.
In response to this situation, WFP and its partners have started providing seasonal targeted assistance. This initiative is designed to bridge the lean season gap through in-kind food distributions, cash transfers and food vouchers. WFP has secured funds to launch the response, but additional funds are needed to keep it going.
“Longer-term measures such as greater investment in agriculture and the livestock sector are essential. But for now, those who are most vulnerable need urgent assistance,” added Bamezon.
WFP’s Health & Nutrition Programme which caters for malnourished, chronically-ill people on anti-retroviral treatment, along with their households, is also facing a funding shortfall. The total shortfall for WFP’s food assistance programmes in Zimbabwe stands at US 42 million.