HARARE – Millions of Zimbabweans pushed into hunger by prolonged drought and economic crisis face an increasingly desperate situation unless adequate funding for a major relief operation materialises quickly, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has warned.
With nearly eight million people – half the population – now food insecure, WFP plans to double the number of people it assists – up to 4.1 million – but needs more than US$200 million for its emergency response in the first half of 2020 alone.
“As things stand, we will run out of food by end of February, coinciding with the peak of the hunger season – when needs are at their highest,” said Niels Balzer, WFP’s Deputy Country Director in Zimbabwe. “Firm pledges are urgently needed as it can take up to three months for funding commitments to become food on people’s tables,” Balzer added.
Years of drought have slashed food production in Zimbabwe, once an African breadbasket. This year’s maize harvest was down 50 percent on 2018, with overall cereal output less than half the national requirement. By August of 2019, WFP was forced to launch an emergency lean season assistance programme to meet rising needs, months earlier than anticipated.
Since then, food shortages have become ever more pronounced. This month, maize, was only available in half of the markets WFP monitors countrywide.