The food situation in Zimbabwe has deteriorated more drastically than expected – due to worsening economic conditions, the cash crisis and also because the government did not import as much food as anticipated.
While critical, it is not a “famine” (there are no mass deaths, no mass migration). February and March are the two hungriest, most difficult months of the year – before the main harvest in April.
- WFP aims to provide food assistance to 5.1 million people across Zimbabwe in February - the highest number of beneficiaries in a single month since the regional crisis began in 2002. In January, WFP assisted 4.3 million people.
- In order to reach as many people as possible, WFP has been forced to cut cereal rations from 12 kg to 5kg per person per month.
- Reduced rations will help millions of hungry people to survive until the April harvest but they will be more vulnerable and more susceptible to disease
- C-SAFE, three US-sponsored NGOs which also distribute free food assistance in Zimbabwe, will assist another 1.8 million beneficiaries – taking the total to around 7 million in February and March (over 50% of the population of 12 million.)
- Cholera patients have received WFP food in treatment centres. A daily ration of 400 g of cereal, 100 g of beans and 20 g of vegetable oil provides some 20,000 patients with nutrition to speed their recovery.
- Donors have been generous to WFP in Zimbabwe – providing more than US$240 million for operations in 2008 and 2009. The UK has given $17.8 million; other recent donations include USA ($33 million), China ($5 million), Russia ($2 million).
- In the worst affected communities, people are surviving on reduced food aid rations and wild foods – as well as resorting to other desperate measures such as selling remaining household assets or using tree bark or soil as a cereal supplement. Soon people may be forced to start consuming “green maize” (picking it far too early).
- A recent WFP survey found that nearly one in five households – including those receiving food assistance – had sold assets in the past three months and that more than 70% had done so in order to buy food; 12% of households had not eaten the previous day.