11 August 2011

Zimbabwe: Food Security 'Pressing Issue'

analysis

THE humanitarian situation in the country still remains fragile, with food security, health, water and sanitation a serious cause for concern. Millions of people are said to be drinking from unprotected water sources and living under unhygienic conditions.

Due to the immediate humanitarian needs, aid agencies through the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Unocha), last week appealed for US$488 million, an increase of US$73 million from the original requirements of US$415 million.

Key priorities to be addressed by the revised 2011 Consolidated Appeal Process include improving levels of food security, which have been described as a "pressing issue," nutrition, water and sanitation and addressing the needs of asylum seekers as well as other vulnerable groups.

About nine million people, more than half of Zimbabwe's estimated 12,3 million people (according to the Central Statistical Office's population projections 2010), are set to benefit this year from water, sanitation and hygiene services, while 8,2 million people will benefit from the health budget and another 6,2 million people from the money budgeted for agriculture.

About 4,95 million women and children are in need of immediate nutritional facilities while 3,2 million pupils, 600 000 teachers and other groups are targeted to benefit in the education sector.

As of June 30 2011, four million people have benefited from safe water, hygiene and sanitation while more than three million out of the targeted seven million people are still in need of safe water and sanitation services.

However, half of the targeted people have benefited as of mid this year.

According to the report as of June, 1 750 450 students and 49 890 teachers have been assisted. This is far below the target of more than three million students and 100 000 teachers and school administrators.

In addition, less than half of the five million targeted people to benefit from primary health care facilities have been reached while food security remained an urgent issue after a 'protracted' dry spell affected six out of 10 provinces this year.

Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Regional Integration and International Cooperation Tedious Chifamba said an internal exercise by the World Food Programme revealed that following extensive crop failure and lack of other food or livelihood, some districts required immediate food assistance for nine months instead of the usual four months.

Chifamba said: "Usually vulnerable group feeding is offered for four months (January to April) during the hunger period.

"WFP estimates that it will soon be responding to the needs of approximately 1,4 million people and requires US$83 million to meet these needs. We understand, however, that USAid has already contributed US$18,5 million to meet some of the food needs."

Due to the dry spell in the six provinces that recorded minimal harvest, vulnerability, especially among people living with HIV/Aids, child headed families, women and the unemployed, had increased.

Although there has been stable food availability and marginal improvement in household incomes, poverty, as defined by generally low income, high underemployment and unemployment levels, has remained a major challenge to household food security in both urban and rural areas.

According to Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet), Zimbabwe's food security outlook for July through to December 2011 released last week, Binga, Kariba, Mudzi, Umzingwane and Zvishavane districts need to be monitored closely as they have annual localised food deficits and their current production was heavily compromised by the dry spells.

The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC)

rural livelihoods assessment estimated the prevalence of food insecure rural households to be six percent in July 2010.

This number was projected to increase to 11% between October and December 2010 and further to 15% during the peak hunger season.

"Rates for chronic and acute childhood malnutrition still stand at 35% and 2,4% respectively," read the review.

"One third of rural Zimbabweans still drink from unprotected water sources. While the scale of cholera has significantly reduced compared to past years, localised outbreaks continue due to the poor state of the health and water, sanitation and hygiene sectors."

UN humanitarian co-coordinator for Zimbabwe Alain Noudehou said though there has been improvement in the social economic context in the country and stability in the humanitarian situation, there are

still some weak areas where

humanitarian assistance was still needed.

He said an announcement by the South African government that it would start deportations of Zimbabweans by August 1 is expected to result in an influx of people, increasing the need for assistance.

"I would like to refer to needs related to food insecurity, response to disease outbreaks like cholera epidemics," said Noudehou.

"There could also be the need to support Zimbabweans who may be repatriated from South Africa in the coming months."

The review also read: "Gains made in the education sector, especially under the Basic Education Assistance Module, are at risk unless pledged funds are disbursed quickly."

Minister of Finance Tendai Biti in his mid-year fiscal policy statement said according to the second round crop assessment survey, about 164 000 households were confirmed to be in need of food assistance.

This has prompted his ministry to put in place a framework which requires US$32,4 million to facilitate distribution of food.

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