Lean Season in Zimbabwe Sees Hunger Rising

It is the lean season in Zimbabwe – the last few months before harvests arrive in April – and hunger levels are reaching a peak. WFP is targeting more than 5 million hungry people.

WFP is aiming to provide assistance to 5.1 million people across Zimbabwe in February - the highest number of people in a single month since the regional crisis began in 2002. Many of them have sold belongings to survive. The country’s economic decline – combined with low harvests in 2008 - has also left large numbers of people in urban areas in need of assistance.

This increased caseload will receive reduced rations so that the existing stocks can be stretched to reach the additional numbers of hungry.

WFP is also providing vital food assistance to thousands of cholera patients in treatment centres run by MSF-Luxembourg in five districts in Manicaland and Masvingo.  Cholera patients are provided with a daily ration of 400g of cereal, 100g of beans and 20g of vegetable oil.  Food assistance will expand to include thousands of additional cholera patients in another seven districts through WFP partnerships.

C-SAFE - three US sponsored NGOs that also distribute food assistance in Zimbabwe - will assist another 1.8 million beneficiaries – taking the total of planned beneficiaries to around 7 million in both February and March 2009 – over 50% of the population (estimated at 12 million).

Due to a widespread lack of seeds and fertiliser, it is likely that the next harvest in April 2009 will be poor. It is still too early to know how bad the harvest will be but WFP and its partners are already planning for another major relief operation in 2009 until April 2010.

Donors have been extremely generous to WFP operations in Zimbabwe – providing over US$240 million for operations in 2008 and 2009; however, WFP still faces a shortfall of US$65 million for its operations until the end of March.