Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Health Reporter
COVID-19 which has claimed 41 lives in Zimbabwe and infected 2 879 is likely to leave approximately 8,6 million people food insecure by December, the World Food Programme (WFP) has projected.
The coronavirus has brought economies worldwide to a standstill and is expected to cause hunger to most people in the world.
The pandemic, which has forced countries including Zimbabwe to impose lockdowns to stop new infections, has resulted in many Zimbabweans in the informal sector losing their sources of livelihood.
Unlike in the past years when food aid was mainly for the rural folk, the WFP says the prevailing pandemic coupled with drought will leave thousands of households in urban areas with no food.
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.
The organisation has since appealed for an additional US$250 million to support a rapidly expanding emergency operation for millions at-risk.
WFP regional director for Southern Africa Ms Lola Castro called on the international community to step up aid and help prevent a potential humanitarian catastrophe.
“The World Food Programme projections indicate that by year’s end, the number of food insecure Zimbabweans will have surged by almost 50 percent to touch 8.6 million, a staggering 60 percent of the population, owing to the combined effects of drought, economic recession and the pandemic,” said Ms Castro.
“Many Zimbabwean families are suffering the ravages of acute hunger, and their plight will get worse before it gets better. The 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.”
She added that the country may go through severe hunger in early 2021 which called for more funding to ensure thousands have food in their homes.
“Hyperinflation is a feature of the country’s profound economic crisis and has pushed the prices of basics beyond the means of many Zimbabweans. Last month, maize prices more than doubled and desperate families are eating less, selling off precious belongings and going into debt,” said Ms Castro.
The organisation said it had started promoting the cultivation of drought-tolerant, nutritious and indigenous alternatives like sorghum and millet.
“As the already dire situation worsens, more contributions are urgently needed. This month, for lack of funding, WFP will only reach 700 000 of 1,8 million intended recipients. Donations permitting, WFP intends to assist 4 million of the most vulnerable this year — those suffering crisis and emergency hunger — and scale up to 5 million in January-April next year, the peak of the lean season,” she added. — @thamamoe