The World Food Program (WFP) says it has been working to enable food-insecure people, including refugees, in the most affected districts to meet their basic food and nutrition requirements during severe seasonal shocks or other crises.
This comes at a time when the world is grappling with increasingly complex nutrition challenges. At least one in three people globally experiences malnutrition in some form.
Speaking at a recent event in Harare, WFP Country Director Eddie Rowe said the organisation will continue to provide assistance in seasonal lean periods, which can escalate to crisis level.
“The objective is to improve access to food and ensure that vulnerable people consume an adequate and nutritious diet in times of need.
“In Zimbabwe WFP is implementing an activity specifically targeting Refugees Support where in partnership with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and a jointly selected Partner Terre Des Hommes are assisting more than 11000 refugees in Tongogara Refugee Camp with food assistance on a monthly basis and livelihood programmes such as poultry projects.
The refugees are mainly from DRC, Burundi, Rwanda, Mozambique and the Horn of Africa. Some refugees have lived in the camp for periods up of more than 10 years.
According to the 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) report following a steady decline for over a decade, the latest available estimates show that both the number and the prevalence of chronically undernourished people in the world have increased, to 815 million (from 777 million in 2015) and 11.0 percent (from 10.6 percent in 2015).
While it is not yet clear whether this is a new trend or a short-term exception to an otherwise downwards trajectory, the figures are concerning.
Of the 815 million undernourished people, an estimated 108 million face severe food insecurity, compared with 80 million the previous year.
Deterioration in food security and nutrition has been observed most notably in conflict areas and in areas with conflict combined with disasters resulting from natural hazards.
The recent surge in hunger was most visible in South Sudan, where famine was declared in February, and alerts of a high risk of famine were issued for north-eastern Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.
“The unprecedented levels of food insecurity threaten the progress made in reducing levels of child wasting, which are falling too slowly to reach global targets.
“Although the prevalence of stunting worldwide has fallen by a third over the past two decades, progress has not been even among regions: 155 million children (nearly one in four) remain stunted, and numbers in Africa continue to rise. In addition, no country is on track to meet the targets for micronutrient deficiencies, and the number of women and girls of reproductive age with anaemia has increased since 2012,” said WFP in a statement.
Poor diets and malnutrition are today the top drivers of the global burden of disease and are responsible for 45 per cent of deaths among children under 5.
Annual losses in gross domestic product resulting from undernutrition average 11 per cent for countries in Asia and Africa.