- World Food Programme says Zimbabwe is facing its worst hunger crisis in a decade as farmers hit by unreliable rains
- The country – once seen as the breadbasket of Africa – is in the grip of “man-made starvation” affecting half of its population.
- The UN agency says 5.5 million people in the countryside and 2.2 million in urban areas need help, and acute malnutrition has risen to 3.6%, up from 2.5% last year.
The World Food Programme (WFP) has confirmed that Zimbabwe is facing its worst hunger crisis in a decade with half of the population – 7.7 million people – food insecure.
The UN agency stated this in a statement on Tuesday following last week’s warning from a UN-appointed independent rights expert that the country – once seen as the breadbasket of Africa – is in the grip of “man-made starvation”.
In Geneva, WFP spokesperson Bettina Luescher said that almost $300 million was needed urgently to supply some 240,000 tonnes of aid.
A villager uses a wheelbarrow to collect a monthly food ration provided by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Masvingo, Zimbabwe, January 25, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
“A climate disaster” and “economic meltdown” were to blame for the ongoing crisis, she explained, with normal rainfall recorded in just one of the last five growing seasons.
Subsistence farmers hit by unreliable rains
The increasingly unreliable rainy season affects subsistence farmers in particular as they grow maize – a very water-intensive crop, and many of these farmers are still recovering from the major 2014-16 El Nino-induced drought.
Also, “the crisis is being exacerbated by a dire shortage of currency, runaway inflation, mounting unemployment, lack of fuel, prolonged power outages and large-scale livestock losses, and they inflict the urban population just as well as rural villagers,” Ms. Luescher said.
WFP says it has now nearly doubled aid assistance in a bid to reach more than four million of those hardest-hit by the crisis.
According to the agency, 5.5 million people in the countryside and 2.2 million in urban areas need help, and acute malnutrition has risen to 3.6%, up from 2.5% last year.