THE World Food Program (WFP) has rolled out a food assistance program in the country’s rural communities to reinforce the food security situation ahead of a catastrophic lean season which could see 1.1 million rural folks facing food shortages.
By Michael Gwarisa
According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerablity Assesment Committee (Zimvac), a total of 1.1 million could face massive starvation in rural Zimbabwe in the forthcoming lean season and WFP hand-outs will target at least 30 priority districts located across all eight rural provinces.
In an interview with HealthTimes, WFP’s spokesperson, Ashley Baxstrom said children and pregnant women were at high risk of malnutrition and food assistance program and current program would prioritise them.
“Under our current response plan, we are planning to assist 170,000 children (under five) with a protective ration of a specialized nutritious food.
“WFP also provides support to pregnant women at Maternity Waiting Homes across the country. Additionally, to address different forms of malnutrition, we are partnering with the private sector and the government to create awareness of and stimulate demand for fortified foods, consumption of which would help to reduce micronutrient deficiencies,” said Baxstrom.
She added that they were also working with partners (UNICEF & FAO) in Mutasa on a special programme to prevent stunting through a multi-sectoral approach.
“The consignment is going towards the WFP response to the current food insecurity needs in the country. WFP’s food basket carefully takes nutritional considerations into account to ensure a balanced combination of fortified oil, pulses and grain.
“We are also getting grain from local producers to complement the consignment. While the smaller portion of in-kind food assistance WFP is providing is coming from outside the country, the largest share (about 70%) of food assistance is provided in the form of cash-based transfers. In addition, WFP is buying grains from our local smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe and also procuring other items locally to complement.”
She also said the food distribution system was a transparent one since they implement a procurement and tracking systems that allow them to provide assistance to the right people at the right time.
“WFP, through its partners, will carry out registrations of and transfer to the most food insecure people in the targeted areas. This is guided by the humanitarian principles.
“Our distribution are first and foremost guided by the humanitarian principles and targeting is informed by WFP’s Beneficiary Targeting system and rules, which provides guidance from the national level up to the community level. Districts where WFP intervenes are guided by the ZimVAC.”
Zimbabwe has been experiencing recurring droughts over the past years mainly due to adverse weather events that are being experienced as a result of climate change. There are a variety of weather-related hazards in Zimbabwe, including tropical cyclones, intense rainfall and floods.
“The country is also affected by droughts that can last as long as three years and recur in cycles of five to seven years. This pattern is also a result of the El Nino phenomenon. While most natural hazards are related to flood events, droughts affect more people.
“Due to its heavy reliance on rain-fed agriculture, the economy of Zimbabwe and the livelihoods of its rural communities are highly vulnerable to climate change.”
Baxstrom also said over-reliance on small-scale, rain-fed agriculture also limits the country’s sources of income and options for purchasing food in foreign markets. Household access to food is also constrained by poverty, declining remittances, high food prices, low growth, and lack of liquidity.