AT least nine million people are vulnerable to the effects of an El Nino-induced drought, which include widespread hunger and lack of water supplies due to dwindling water sources. The situation is expected to worsen until the next harvest in 2017.
Although the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee reported that 2,8 million people are currently affected by the drought, the numbers are expected to increase as the food emergency period has been extended to April next year, according to official sources.
Government last week admitted that the number of people requiring emergency food assistance had increased to four million.
Statistics from the World Food Programme (WFP) show that at least 7,5 million people in rural areas are affected by the drought, while 1,3 million people in the urban areas are vulnerable.
“Using the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC) projections and analysis of the estimated crop write offs as well as historical food security trends for the past five years as a baseline, WFP estimates the prevalence of food insecurity in the rural population to fluctuate from 30 percent in April and 49 percent (4,4 million people) during the peak of the lean season from January to March 2017.
“About 95 percent of the country has received below normal rainfall as at March 2, 2016. However, there has been some improvement in Mashonaland East, Midlands and Matabeleland North provinces. The improvement of rainfall activity across most parts of the country should result in improved crop conditions. Though most parts of the country had received 50 percent of the annual rainfall (as at February 29),” WFP reported.
The WFP Zimbabwe office has prepared a response plan aimed at extending the current lean season by a month to April, and bringing forward the 2016/17 lean season start date to May compared to September during the previous year.
WFP’s response seeks to provide immediate access to food for the most vulnerable while addressing the underlying causes of food insecurity and malnutrition.
WFP plans to progressively scale up its response to match projected increases in food insecurity levels and reach 2,2 million people in January 2017.
Last month, one million drought-affected beneficiaries received assistance from the WFP.
The organisation assisted an estimated 606 718 beneficiaries; 62 percent of the beneficiaries received a component of cash transfers.
For WFP to provide assistance through to March 2017, US$220 million in funding will be required. WFP said it was grateful for contributions already received from the government of Zimbabwe as well as from Canada, Switzerland, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund and the United States.
The south-western districts of the country are the worst affected due to high rates of crop failure and poor livestock conditions which resulted in panic sales for many.
Priority districts include Lupane, Umguza, Matobo, Chipinge, Chiredzi, Zaka, Mberengwa, Masvingo, Gwanda, Bulilima, Insiza, Mangwe and Umzingwane.
Early-warning evidence of the full impact of El Nino in southern Africa indicates that the current phenomenon will seriously impact regional food security and nutrition until the middle of 2017, the region’s subsequent main harvest period.
Government has since directed the GMB to slash the price of maize from US$23 per 50kg bag to US$15 to enable the majority of people affected by the drought to buy the staple food.
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