THE Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WPF) say Zimbabwe faces acute food shortages with an alarming projection of nearly six million people in need of food
aid in the coming months, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
A report released last Thursday in Johannesburg says almost six million people, about half the population in Zimbabwe, are in severe need of food aid as food production in the country has fallen by more than 50% measured against a five-year average.
“Zimbabwe faces acute food shortages with some 5,5 million people in need of food aid,” the report says.
“Food production in Zimbabwe has fallen by more than 50%, measured against a five-year average, due mostly to the current social, economic and political situation and the effects of drought.”
According to the report, southern Africa still requires substantial food aid despite the fact that more food was produced in the region than during last year’s severe food crisis.
However, the report says Zimbabwe’s production has been uneven with the country producing barely enough to meet more than 40% of its needs.
“The situation was compounded by the marked reduction of the large-scale farm sector, which produced only about one tenth of their 1990s output and as a result about half of the regional food deficit of some 2,65 million tonnes is in Zimbabwe.”
The report states that the shortfall means that Zimbabwe will need to import almost 1,3 million tonnes of food either commercially or through food aid to meet the minimum food needs of its people. According to the FAO/WFP report the effects of the HIV/Aids pandemic were worsening the food crisis in the region.
“Other reasons for continued food aid assistance despite increased overall food availability are households vulnerability caused by the on-going HIV/Aids pandemic,”reads the report.
“HIV/Aids infections in southern Africa are the highest in the world making those infected all the more vulnerable to health complications and death when food shortages occur and affect communities as a whole.”
The report further states that an alarming increase has been found in households headed by children and grandparents. A United Nations Aids survey on Zimbabwe recently stated that at least 3 800 people die every week in Zimbabwe of Aids-related diseases, an astronomic rise from the conservative figure of 500 people currently being touted by the government.
Meanwhile, children are reported to be dying of hunger in Zimbabwe and many others will die if emergency action is not taken soon, UN officials said last Friday.
A survey of children under six years old by the United Nations Children’s Education Fund (Unicef) found high levels of severe malnutrition in many areas, especially in larger cities.
“Children are dying and if we don’t ratchet up our response many more children will become malnourished, and many of those who are already malnourished will die,” said Gerry Dyer, head of Unicef’s regional office in Johannesburg.