© THE Catholic Relief Services (CRS), an international humanitarian agency, has warned of worsening hunger, saying Zimbabwe is now in phase three of a food crisis, signalling acute malnutrition.
This comes as the World Food Programme (WFP) recently announced that its coffers will run dry next month and it will not be able to continue supplying food aid to Zimbabwe, with over eight million people in rural and urban areas facing starvation.
CRS regional director for southern Africa, Dorrett Byrd, said Zimbabwe is experiencing one of its worst food security crises in recent years.
“Families have run out of options to put food on their tables.
“There have been extensive crop failures and we’re seeing families who have depleted food supplies. At the same time, families’ savings have been wiped out because of inflation,” Byrd said.
Byrd added that large-scale food assistance will be needed until 2021, as the country is experiencing yet another dry spell for the 2019-2020 farming season.
“The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is expected to further deteriorate in the months ahead, with projections for poor rainfall and harvests continuing into 2020.
“Over the last five years, Zimbabwe has been plagued by recurrent droughts and dry spells.
“In a country where more than half the population survives on small-scale farming, families are now being forced to cope by using their savings or selling off household assets to buy food,” he said.
Byrd added that to cope with the crisis, a growing number of young people are migrating from rural to urban areas to work in the informal sector, or are leaving the country altogether, while parents are leaving their young children behind with grandparents who struggle to provide for them.
“What’s more, tens of thousands of families are still recovering from Cyclone Idai, which wreaked havoc on harvests. To make matters worse, families are contending with severe inflation and increasing prices of basic commodities, making their economic situation even more precarious,” he said.
According to a United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs report, over 47 000 children in Chimanimani and Chipinge are at risk of malnutrition and require extensive nutrition support to sustain them until the next harvest.
Byrd further said beyond the deteriorating conditions in Zimbabwe, CRS’ field experts have also warned of a worsening hunger crisis in Lesotho, Zambia, Mozambique, Madagascar and Malawi.
“This area of the world needs help and it needs help now. The droughts have gotten longer and more intense because of climate change and these communities aren’t going to be able to address it without global assistance,” Byrd said.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, more than 45 million people across southern Africa are currently facing food insecurity.
“There is an urgent need globally to take definitive action that will slow down, stop, or reverse climate change. We hope the economic situation improves soon, but if climate change is not addressed, countries like Zimbabwe will continue to suffer,” Byrd said.