Harare — Hunger is on the rise in Zimbabwe with an estimated 2.2 million people - one in four of the rural population - expected to need food assistance during the pre-harvest period early next year. This is the highest since early 2009 when more than half the population required food support.
The extent of predicted hunger is revealed in the recently-published Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) rural livelihoods report which estimates national food security levels and identifies affected areas. The study is led by the Government with support from the UN and other partners.
"Many districts, particularly in the south, harvested very little and people are already trying to stretch out their dwindling food stocks," says UN World Food Programme (WFP) Country Director Sory Ouane. "WFP is working closely with the Government and partners to respond to the looming food crisis and will start food and cash distributions to the most vulnerable in October."
To meet the increased needs, WFP and its partners will provide regionally-procured cereals as well as imported vegetable oil and pulses. Cash transfers will be used in selected areas to afford people flexibility and help support local markets. Distributions will be gradually scaled up from October until harvest time in March next year.
The current high levels of food insecurity are being attributed to various factors including adverse weather conditions, the unavailability and high cost of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilisers and projected high cereal prices due to the poor maize harvest. WFP monitoring in rural markets has found grain prices 15 percent higher than this time last year.
In 2012, for the first time, the Government of Zimbabwe contributed some US$10 million worth of grain from domestic stocks towards a joint relief operation with WFP and partners. This programme provided food assistance to some 1.4 million people in 37 rural districts.
To help people withstand future droughts and other shocks, WFP has been implementing a Cash/Food for Assets programme in rural Zimbabwe since June. Under this programme, vulnerable communities receive food or cash while taking part in projects such as the construction of community irrigation systems and deep wells.