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Urgent international support needed to prevent millions of desperate Zimbabweans plunging deeper into hunger

Photo: WFP/ Claire Nevill, At WFP food distributions in Zimbabwe community members stand at least one metre apart and collect their food in groups of five, to prevent overcrowding.
HARARE – With Zimbabwe’s already severe climate- and recession-induced hunger crisis deepening and COVID-19 taking hold, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) urgently needs US$130 million to sustain through August an emergency operation to prevent millions of the country’s most vulnerable people plunging deeper into hunger.

A recent nationwide assessment – the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) – shows that the number of acutely food insecure Zimbabweans has risen to 4.3 million, from 3.8 million at the end of last year.

“With most Zimbabweans already struggling to put food on the table, the COVID pandemic risks even wider and deeper desperation,” said Eddie Rowe, WFP’s Country Director. “We must all do our utmost to prevent this tragedy turning into a catastrophe.”

WFP assistance in recent months has helped ease hunger in six of nine districts classified late last year as suffering “emergency” food insecurity (IPC 4), allowing them to be downgraded to the less severe “crisis” level (IPC 3). However, 56 of the country’s 60 districts are now categorised as experiencing “crisis” hunger. WFP supports communities afflicted by “crisis” and “emergency” food insecurity.

WFP is planning to assist 4.1 million people in April, although insufficient funding has prevented it achieving the same monthly target since the turn of the year. In March, it reached 3.7 million of the most vulnerable Zimbabweans.

The total number of food insecure people stands at 7.7 million, more than half the population. The US$130 million being urgently sought by WFP is part of a total food assistance sector requirement of US$472 million through December.

Cereal production in 2019 was half that of 2018, and less than half the national requirement. Experts predict that the upcoming 2020 harvest will be even poorer. Most of Zimbabwe’s food is produced by subsistence farmers dependent on a single, increasingly unreliable rainy season.

With unprecedented hyperinflation having pushed the prices of staples beyond the means of most Zimbabweans, increasingly desperate families are eating less, selling off precious belongings and going into debt.

COVID-19 threatens to exacerbate Zimbabwe’s dire economic and hunger crises, drastically affecting the lives of people in both urban and rural areas. WFP has a critical role to play by sustaining its scaled-up food assistance programme – and must be able to deliver at full capacity – while supporting the country’s response to the pandemic.

It is pre-positioning three months of food and cash assistance, rolling out new risk-control measures at distributions – increasing their number to prevent overcrowding, initiating handwashing and monitoring social distancing – and launching a communications campaign to convey essential health and safety information.

Photos available here and video available here.


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The United Nations World Food Programme - saving lives in emergencies and changing lives for millions through sustainable development. WFP works in more than 80 countries around the world, feeding people caught in conflict and disasters, and laying the foundations for a better future.

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Claire Nevill, WFP/Harare
Mob. +263 787 200557

Gerald Bourke, WFP/Johannesburg
Mob. +27 82 90 81 417

Isheeta Sumra, WFP/Rome
Mob. +39 347 1814398

Jane Howard, WFP/London
Tel. +44 20 3857 7413, Mob. +44 7968 00 8474

Bettina Luescher, WFP/Geneva
Berlin, Mob. +49 160 99261730

Steve Taravella, WFP/Washington
Tel. +1 202 653 1149, Mob. +1 202 770 5993

Shada Moghraby, WFP/New York
Tel. + 1 646 556 6914, Mob. +1 929 289 9867