USAID food donation to cushion hungry Zimbabweans as the effects of El Nino begin to bite.

– This year’s lean season coincides with the El Nino weather phenomenon, where Zimbabwe is facing erratic rainfall and high temperatures, meaning we could see low production and further increase food insecurity, a WFP official said.

John Cassim

WFP Country Director, Francesca Erdelmann standing next to the USAID Mission Director Janean Davisduring the handover ceremony in Harare.

Harare, Zimbabwe – The USAID has donated US$11,27 million worth of food aid to the World Food Programme (WFP) in a bid to conquer hunger for nearly three million vulnerable Zimbabweans.

The donations, which comprise grain, pulses, and oil, come at a time when concerns have been raised over a possible increase in vulnerable people owing to the current El Nino climate pattern.

“I am happy to announce the donation of US$ 11,27 million to the World Food Programme’s Lean Season Assistance through the generous support from the American people.

The United States’ assistance will provide monthly food baskets for approximately 230 000 food insecure people in the drought-prone districts of Mwenezi-Mangwe, Chivi, and Buhera from January to March—the peak of the year’s lean season,” USAID Mission Director Janean Davis’ said at the hand-over ceremony in Harare on Wednesday.

Davis added, “We are all aware of the erratic rainfall and drought caused by the El Nino climate pattern. This has impacted the planting season as well as the 2024 harvest and created deteriorating pasture conditions for the cattle and other livestock.”

Zimbabwe has experienced severe droughts in the recent past; hence, Cyclone Idai and the COVID-19 pandemic worsened the plight of already vulnerable communities.

At least two million Zimbabweans are in need of food assistance every year, and some beneficiaries are emerging from the cities as economic hardships continue to mount.

Nearly 3,8 million people were vulnerable and needed help during the lean season last year, compared to five million the previous year.

According to the WFP Country Director, Francesca Erdelmann, her organisation is now focusing on feeding 2,7 million Zimbabweans owing to the Zimbabwe Vulnerable Assessment Committee report that warns of 2,7 million people who will not have enough cereal to eat during this first quarter of 2024.

“This year’s lean season coincides with the El Nino weather phenomenon, where Zimbabwe is facing erratic rainfall and high temperatures, meaning we could see low production and further increase food insecurity.

The US assistance today will cover close to 230 000 of the 265 000 targeted by WFP people over the coming months,” Francesca said.

Through this lean season assistance, the collective efforts of the national Food Deficit Mitigation Programme in partnership with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare will reach out to 2,7 million.

Each family is expected to receive 8,5 kg of grain, 1,7 kg of pulse, and 0.6 kg of oil during each distribution, which will be nonpartisan according to the WFP head.

Amid growing reports that food aid in Zimbabwe is distributed on party lines with some known opposition supporters marginalised, WFP has assured that its partners, such as World Vision, Caritas, and Mwenezi Training Centre in Buhera, Mangwe, Chivi, and Mwenezi, will help distribute to the needy.

Meanwhile, both the USAID and WFP representatives acknowledged the funding gaps owing to other global crises as a result of droughts and wars.

The Somalia drought and the Ukraine and Gaza conflicts are some of the challenges that have stolen the attention of donors.

“The preparations for a programme like this start many months in advance. So right now, of course, we had hoped to contribute much more to the national programme than we are doing. The global circumstances in the world are such that there are very large crises elsewhere, and it’s then difficult for the donors to prioritise the pathway within that context,” Francesca said.

Meanwhile, one and a half million people, out of the five million people who live in urban areas in Zimbabwe, were found to be food insecure in December 2022.

In rural areas, there are about 2.7 million people out of about 10 million people, although their issues are very different.

In rural areas, people are dependent a lot on the seasons, depending mostly on their ability to grow their own food.

“They are also dependent on the harvest that is made possible by the seasons, and if the rain is like this and it comes very late or it’s very hot, then they are very dependent on that. Therefore, the issues they are dealing with are different, and solutions for them are different,” the WFP head said.

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