The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) on Thursday launched an international appeal for an additional 250 million U.S. dollars to “support a rapidly expanding emergency operation for millions at-risk.”
Donations permitting, the WFP intends to assist 4 million of the most vulnerable in 2020 and scale up to 5 million in January-April next year, the peak of the lean season.
In the appeal made from Rome, the WFP said its projections indicated that by the end of this year, the number of food insecure Zimbabweans would have surged by almost 50 percent to reach 8.6 million (or 60 percent of the population), owing to the combined effects of drought, economic recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many Zimbabwean families are suffering the ravages of acute hunger, and their plight will get worse before it gets better,” said Lola Castro, WFP regional director for Southern Africa.
“We need the international community to step up now to help us prevent a potential humanitarian catastrophe.”
The WFP said a nationwide lockdown, which was reinforced last week, had precipitated massive joblessness in urban areas, while rural hunger was accelerating because unemployed migrants are returning to their villages and the absence of the vital remittances they provided was more keenly felt.
“Subsistence farming families who make up three-quarters of Zimbabwe’s population and produce most of its food are also hurting because of a third successive drought-hit harvest this year. It yielded only 1.1 million metric tons of maize, the staple cereal, well down on last year’s already poor 2.4 million metric tons and less than half the national requirement.
“This, in turn, presages even more severe hunger in early 2021, the peak of the next ‘lean’ season,” it said.
The WFP also noted that hyperinflation worsened the country’s profound economic crisis and had pushed the prices of basics beyond the means of many Zimbabweans.
“Last month, maize prices more than doubled in the capital of Harare. Increasingly desperate families are eating less, selling off precious belongings and going into debt.
“As the already dire situation worsens, more contributions are urgently needed. This month, for lack of funding, the WFP will only reach 700,000 of 1.8 million intended recipients,” it said.
The world food body said it was grateful for donors supporting its emergency response to COVID-19 in Zimbabwe.