UN Launches Urgent Food Appeal For Starving Zimbabweans

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Thursday launched an urgent appeal for an additional US$250 million to support a rapidly expanding emergency operation for millions at-risk in economically troubled Zimbabwe.

The country which has been facing a litany of economic challenges is once again gripped by food shortages due to severe droughts in recent years as well as a collapse in the health sector.

In a statement, the WFP said the number of food-insecure Zimbabweans will have surged by almost 50 per cent to touch 8.6 million – a staggering 60 per cent of the population – owing to the combined effects of drought, economic recession and the 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’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.

“We need the international community to step up now to help us prevent a potential humanitarian catastrophe.”

According to the WFP, a nationwide lockdown reinforced last week has precipitated massive joblessness in urban areas, while rural hunger is accelerating because now unemployed migrants are returning to their villages and the absence of the vital remittances they provided is more keenly felt.

Subsistence farming families who makeup 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.

The country produced 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.

With inflation running above 700%, prices of basic goods are now beyond the reach of many citizens and desperate families are eating less, selling off precious belongings and going into debt, the WFP said.

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