THE World Food Programme (WFP) says half of the country’s population is now in need of urgent food assistance.
This comes as the country is experiencing severe shortages of maize meal, on the back of the debilitating drought which is ravaging the southern African region.
WFP country director, Eddie Rowe, told the Daily News On Sunday last week that many Zimbabweans in both urban and rural areas were increasingly becoming food insecure.
“As we move deeper into this year’s hunger season, more than 7,7 million people across the country are expected to be in dire need of food assistance.
“WFP has scaled up its assistance operations significantly, with a view of reaching 4,1 million of the most vulnerable people between now and April 2020,” he said.
Rowe said a recent multi-stakeholder assessment, led by the Food and Nutrition Council, had also established that ever more Zimbabweans now needed food assistance.
Rowe identified Binga and Buhera as being among the most food insecure districts in the country.
“These districts have some of the highest chronic food insecurity, together with seven others.
“When you look at all the other districts, there is a minimum of about 20 percent of the population which falls under that crisis category and assistance needs to be provided across the 60 districts,” he said.
Due to the severity of the food insecurity, Rowe said the WFP had scaled up its assistance in urban areas — further imploring Zimbabweans to grow more small grains such as sorghum and millet to deal with the reduced rainfalls.
According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Zimvac) report, 59 percent of Zimbabweans — translating into 5 529 209 people will require 818 323 metric tonnes of maize grain, which will cost about US$217 million to import.
“As we move into the second quarter of the 2019/20 consumption year, approximately 38 percent of rural households, translating to 3 550 851 persons, will require emergency cereal assistance amounting to about 525 000 metric tonnes.
“Matabeleland North, Midlands and Masvingo were projected to have the highest proportion of cereal insecure households.
“Even though the three provinces have the highest proportion of cereal insecure households, Mashonaland West province had the highest increase of 185 percent and 142 percent for Midlands,” part of the report says.
Zimbabwe consumes about 1,8 million tonnes of grain annually, but produced less than 800 000 tonnes last season due to drought.
Last month, Agriculture minister Perrance Shiri also revealed that Zimbabwe’s Strategic Grain Reserve was down to below 100 000 tonnes of the staple maize — from the mandatory 500 000 tonnes, following last year’s drought.