United Nations resident co-ordinator, Bishow Parajuli yesterday described the food situation in Matabeleland North as dire, with a large number of children failing to attend school because of hunger.
By Khanyile Mlotshwa
Addressing journalists in Bulawayo after the conclusion of a two-day field visit to Bubi, Lupane and Binga, Parajuli said the number of malnourished children had increased tremendously in most parts of the province.
“As a result, there has been an increase in absentees at schools as attendance is decreasing,” he said
“Climate change is a reality. Where there used to be rain, it’s now dry; where there was snow, it is melting.”
Parajuli, however, expressed optimism that not only will the international community stand with Zimbabweans, but that communities would use the hard time to develop resilience.
He said the recovery of the country’s economy relied on the revitalisation of the education sector, increasing agricultural production and attracting investment.
“There have been some years of stagnation, but right now there are changes. I believe these efforts will transform the economy of the country,” he said.
“That is important because a farmer needs inputs in their work.
“If Malawi produces two tonnes per hectare, why not Zimbabwe? You [Zimbabweans] are better educated after all.
“The second half of this year will be an opportunity for more finance to come into the Zimbabwean economy.”
Parajuli added: “While we are looking at that, the drought has hit us; we can’t let people starve. The combination of what we are doing [in the] short term will build long-term resilience.”
Democratic Republic of Congo ambassador to Zimbabwe and dean of the diplomatic corps, Mwampanga Mwana Nanga, said the drought situation was unbearable.
“When you go out there, the people with education have left, only women and children who can’t do much are remaining behind,” he said.
“There are a lot of needs out there. There are people who have planted crops several times because of the erratic rains.
“There is a need to capacitate the meteorological department so that it can advise people on when to plant.
“What is needed then is leadership that comes from people with training.
“We have to be united and take a multi-sectoral approach in addressing this drought.”
He added: “The people are not necessarily poor. When you go there [rural areas] they have goats and cows; but if they are selling them for $20, they are losing.
“The UN has agreed to set up an auction so that people who come from Bulawayo and Harare can buy these [goats and cows] at higher prices.”
Nanga said the trip to Matabeleland North was an eye-opener on the gravity of the drought.
“Climate change is a reality,” he said. “El Nino is a reality. Those affected are real people. You can see their suffering.”
Namibian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Balbina Daes Piennar said the communities had it “in themselves” to deal with the drought and the attendant hunger.
“In Binga, we met a lot of people who came out proudly that they were physically involved in building a new dam in their community,” she said.
“As long as the people don’t turn up, government efforts will be of no use.
“We are happy that, no matter the difficult circumstances, people are so committed.”
The government says four million people face starvation this year due to the El Nino-induced drought.