THE UNITED Nations (UN) and the Zimbabwe government jointly held a multi-stakeholder consultative meeting today in Harare to assess the impact of the El Niño -induced drought in the country and to urgently prepare a coordinated response to a most likely humanitarian crisis.
As effects of climate change worsen, droughts have become more frequent and severe in southern Africa. Combined with this year’s strongest ever recorded El Niño phenomenon–the present situation is taking a heavy toll on rural livelihoods and economies rendering an estimated 30 million people food insecure in this region alone. Some countries in the region have already declared drought emergency in an effort to scale up humanitarian response.
Noting the seriousness of the situation in Zimbabwe, compounded by last year’s dry spell and daunting economic challenges, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Bishow Parajuli, called on all stakeholders “to join hands and focus on responding adequately and timely to the urgent needs of the food-insecure population while building community resilience as an integral component of the response”.
Over the next three months, 1,5 million Zimbabweans will be short of food until the next harvest, which by then the number of vulnerable people is expected to further increase significantly due to the looming El Niño induced severe drought. As such, if 2015 was bad, this season is set to be worse.
With the current trend, the initial national response plan of US$132 million, launched in October 2015 to respond to the food insecurity situation, would almost certainly go up.
So far only US$59 million has been mobilised in food and cash support from the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund with responses being implemented.
Underlining the significant gaps that still remain the UN Resident Coordinator said: “It is critical to urgently respond to the growing humanitarian challenge caused by the El Niño phenomenon and to complement Government and partners support.”
This current El Niño event, one of the strongest in 35 years, will remain active until the first quarter of 2016, therefore influencing most of the agricultural season in the southern Africa region.
Recognising the imminent severe effects of the El Niño, Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Rtd Col Christian Katsande said: “For Zimbabwe, the forecast of poor rainfall patterns in the current cropping season and livestock situation coupled with the eroded productive capacity of farming households will result in a significant increase in food and nutrition insecurity in the country. Rehabilitation of national irrigation infrastructure for increased food production has to be scaled up urgently.”
Food insecurity in Zimbabwe would be compounded by the regional spread of the impact of the El Niño phenomenon. Fourteen other countries in the southern Africa region are also likely to face a deficit in cereal supplies and reserve, increasing the upward price pressures. This regional humanitarian challenge calls for all stakeholders in Zimbabwe to urgently prepare and mobilise resources as logistical arrangements to pre-position and ship in commercial food supplies and complementary humanitarian assistance from beyond the region will be the only option.
European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Philippe Van Damme, said: “Government, private sector and partners have to urgently determine the global needs and the immediate humanitarian needs to allow for coordination and facilitation between the different stakeholders and for prioritization and timely allocation of resources. Our efforts to mitigate the humanitarian needs should be, to the extent possible, linked to the resilience building programme.”
According to the Zimbabwe National Water Authority’s hydrological cycle forecast, water resource management for most of the catchments is already under strain. As such, the prevailing reduced rainfall is also likely to have far reaching implications on water supply for human and livestock as well as disruptions to hydropower production.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Vulnerable Assessment Committee is undertaking a rapid assessment to determine the overall implications of the unfolding El Niño-induced drought situation to food and nutrition security, agriculture and livestock, health, water and sanitation, education, and child protection.
The Harare multi-stakeholders meeting, co-chaired by Deputy Chief Secretary to President and Cabinet, Rtd Col Katsande and the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Bishow Parajuli, brought together some 130 senior representatives from Government, diplomatic corps, donors as well as international and national development and humanitarian agencies. Going forward the meeting agreed to initiate inter-sectoral planning for the 2016 agricultural season with focus on responding to the mounting humanitarian challenges.
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