Zimbabwe Faces Food Crisis as El Niño Wreaks Havoc: 7.7 Million Require Assistance

The reports indicate that 6 million people in rural areas will require food assistance between May 2024 and March 2025.

John Cassim

Harare, Zimbabwe – A troubling picture of food crisis has been painted by the Second Round of Crops, Livestock, and Fisheries Assessment of April 18, 2024, according to information released by the Zimbabwean government through a weekly post-cabinet media conference this Tuesday.

The assessment was conducted by the Zimbabwe Livelihoods Assessment Committee (ZimLAC), along with the Rapid Village-based Food Assessment.  

These reports indicate that 6 million people in rural areas will require food assistance between May 2024 and March 2025.

The situation is further compounded in urban areas, with the ZimLAC Report highlighting that an additional 1.7 million people residing in cities will also require assistance. 

With this, a startling 7.7 million Zimbabweans or 51% of the country’s population, now face food insecurity. This figure excludes an additional 4.5 million children who would require school meals.

Grain Shortages and Private Sector Response

As of 9 May 2024, the Grain Marketing Board’s grain stock stands at a concerning 423,779 metric tonnes. 

In order to close the shortfall until March 2025, the private sector is anticipated to import all 400,000 metric tonnes of stockfeed and up to 450,000 metric tonnes of urban maize.

Fortunately, the private sector has shown capacity to import 1 million metric tonnes to mitigate the effects of the drought. 

The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) reports it has already begun importing maize, bringing in 427,000 metric tonnes so far.  

GMAZ claims the current monthly inflows are averaging 100,000 metric tonnes, and that the market is adequately supplied.

GMAZ Advocates for Local Procurement of Food Aid

However, GMAZ expresses concern that food aid distributed directly could disrupt local industries.  

“The association recommends that aid agencies procure maize meal from local millers or distribute assistance through cash transfers or coupons, allowing beneficiaries to purchase from local shops,” GMAZ Chairperson said recently.

UNICEF Appeals for Funding to Address Child Vulnerability

UNICEF has issued an urgent appeal for USD 84.9 million to fund its emergency response for children and women affected by the El Niño crisis. This funding aims to provide life-saving interventions to 1.34 million people, including 866,000 children, amidst a complex humanitarian situation.

“The funding will help mitigate child morbidity and mortality, prevent malnutrition and provide treatment, enhance water access, ensure continuous learning for children, and protect children against abuse and exploitation. It will also help strengthen the resilience of household to deal with the crisis,” stressed Dr Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe.

UNICEF highlights the severe impact of El Niño on children under five, pregnant and lactating women, and adolescents. The drought is causing numerous health issues, including malnutrition, infectious diseases, and increased vulnerability to abuse and exploitation.

UNICEF emphasizes the critical need to secure children’s rights to health, education, and protection during this crisis. Their appeal urges the donor community to support their efforts to mitigate child morbidity and mortality, prevent malnutrition, and strengthen household resilience.

The effects of El Niño are expected to be long-lasting, impacting child nutrition well into next year. Continued support will be crucial to address the enduring impact on Zimbabwe’s most vulnerable populations.

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