SENIOR STAFF WRITER
MILLIONS of Zimbabweans, especially those living in rural areas, are facing hunger and starvation, a new report by relief agencies says.
The report by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Zimvac) — a grouping of representatives from the government, United Nations, civil society organisations and technical agencies working in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) — said the situation had been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is expected that the 2020 food insecurity will spill over into 2021. Zimvac estimates that around 5,5 million rural people will be food insecure at the peak of the hunger season from January to March 2021.
“This prevalence of food insecurity is one of the highest the country has recorded in the recent past, and the data suggests the need for continued support to households, to stop them slipping into chronic food insecurity and malnutrition.
“The Covid-19 pandemic imposed new threats in an already critical food security situation arising mainly from the prevailing poor macro-economic conditions and consecutive years of drought,” the report said.
This comes as people with disabilities have been ranked among the most vulnerable in Zimbabwe during the Covid-19 era by the United Nations, as their monthly incomes have shrunk by 50 percent.
The WFP estimated that by the end of last year, the number of food insecure Zimbabweans surged by almost 50 percent — climbing to a mammoth 8,6 million people, owing to the combined effects of drought, economic recession and the coronavirus pandemic.
“Subsistence farming families who make up three-quarters of Zimbabwe’s population and produce most of its food have been the most affected.
“The Covid-19 pandemic imposed new challenges on the economy. The informal sector was the worst hit. The government’s lockdowns starting in March (2020) effectively closed down informal markets.
“Formal business also struggled to retain their employment capacities, leading to a number of firms cutting down the size of their workforce,” Zimvac reported further.
This comes as authorities are battling to cushion vulnerable households, with only 400 000 of them currently benefiting from the government-sponsored scheme which gives them $300 a month.
Zimbabwe is currently under a strict lockdown which was re-imposed by authorities at the beginning of the year following a spike in deaths of people infected by the coronavirus pandemic.