In recent years, food production in Zimbabwe has been devastated by various factors including natural disasters, and economic 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 13.7 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 relief operations in the country.
While the end of hyperinflation in 2009 had positive effects on food availability in the marketplace, Zimbabwe continues to battle poor liquidity and high unemployment rates. Despite some progress, challenges remain in attracting large-scale investment.
The 2013 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) rural livelihoods report, which estimates food insecurity levels, predicts that 2.2 million Zimbabweans will be unable to access sufficient food during the peak hunger period, January – March 2014. This is the highest level of food insecurity since 2009. WFP is responding with a Seasonal Targeted Assistance programme to help food-insecure households in the worst-affected areas. The rising food insecurity levels are due to a combination of factors, including poor weather, the high cost or lack of availability of fertilisers and seeds, and rising food prices due to another poor harvest.
WFP, meanwhile, continues to implement its year-round Health and Nutrition programme which supports malnourished HIV/AIDS and TB patients along with their households; pregnant and nursing mothers; and children under five years of age. WFP is also implementing a Food for Assets programme whereby community members receive food while creating assets - irrigaton systems or deep wells - that improve their ability to cope with drought and other shocks.