The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is seeking more international donor support to prevent millions of Zimbabweans from plunging deeper into hunger.
The global Covid-19 pandemic, which has not spared Zimbabwe, has aggravated an already severe hunger crisis in the country.
On Thursday, the WFP appealed for an additional US$250 million to support a rapidly expanding emergency operation for millions of citizens at risk.
WFP’s projections indicate by the end of 2020, the number of food-insecure Zimbabweans would have surged by almost 50% to reach 8.6 million.
This represents 60% of the population.
WFP identified the drought, economic recession and the coronavirus pandemic as the main drivers of the crisis.
Galloping inflation has also left fewer families affording basic food, WFP said, with the price of maize, the staple cereal, more than doubling in June this year.
“Many Zimbabwean families are suffering the ravages of acute hunger, and their plight will get worse before it gets better,” said Lola Castro, WFP’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
This July, amid serious funding shortages, WFP only managed to reach 700,000 of 1.8 million intended recipients.
“We need the international community to step up now to help us prevent a potential humanitarian catastrophe.”
Zimbabwe’s food insecurity has been compounded by a nationwide Covid-19 lockdown which has caused massive joblessness in urban areas.
In rural areas, hunger is accelerating, as unemployed migrants return to their villages, without the vital remittances they once provided.
According to WFP, subsistence farmers make up three-quarters of Zimbabwe’s population and produce most of the country’s food.
However, the subsistence farmers produced only 1.1 million MT of maize, the staple cereal, down from last year’s already poor harvest of 2.4 million MT, and less than half the national requirement.
Funds permitting, the WFP said it intends to assist 4 million of the most vulnerable this year, those suffering ‘crisis’ and ’emergency’ hunger, and scale up to 5 million from January to April 2021, the peak of the lean season.