230 000 Zimbabweans to benefit from USAID, WFP 2024 lean season assistance

By Kuda Pembere

About 230 000 Zimbabweans are set to benefit from the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) US$11.3 million food support to cushion against the January to March 2024 lean season.

The World Food Programme (WFP) will be coordinating the distribution of this assistance which comes at the nick of time when the country is also enduring the El Nino situation.This lean season assistance is part of the collective efforts of the national Food Deficit Mitigation Programme in partnership with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare aims to reach 2.7 million people.

USAID Zimbabwe Mission Director Janean Davis said they have been working with WFP to alleviate food insecurity in Zimbabwe since 2000.

“We are all aware of the erratic rainfall and drought caused by the El Nilio climate pattern. This has impacted the planting season as well as the 2024 harvest and created deteriorating pasture conditions for cattle and other livestock.

“Today, I am happy to announce 11.27 million U.S. dollars to the World Food Programme’s Lean Season Assistance, through the generous support of the American people. United States’ assistance will provide monthly food baskets for approximately 230,000 food insecure people in the drought-prone districts of Mwenezi, Mangwe, Chivi, and Buhera from January to March—the peak of this year’s lean season. Each participant will receive monthly in-kind food commodities of cereal, pulses, and vegetable oil,” she said.

WFP representative in Zimbabwe Ms Francesca Erdelmann said this assistance comes as a response to the findings in the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) which entailed that 2.7 million people in the first quarter of 2024 will not have sufficient cereal.

“The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) report warns us that 2,7 million people will not have enough cereal to eat during this first quarter of 2024. This year’s lean season coincides with the El Nino weather phenomenon, where Zimbabwe is facing erratic rainfall and high temperatures, meaning we could see low production and further increasing food insecurity. Therefore, this assistance is critical for many people across the country.

“We appreciate USAID’s S11.3 million contribution on behalf of the American people as we seek to support families in Zimbabwe. The assistance we are acknowledging today, which includes cereals, pulses and fortified vegetable oil, is an important contribution to help the most vulnerable people in rural areas to meet their nutritional needs. The US assistance will cover close to 230,000 of the 265,000 targeted by WFP people over the coming months,” she said. “The receipt of food assistance is unconditional and free of charge. ZimGold registered 969 farmers from 48 producer groups in Buhera and Chipinge districts to grow over nine hundred hectares of sunflowers for the 2023/24 cropping season.”

With cholera known for spreading in crowded places,the WFP representative and Zimbabwe director noted that they will be implementing the distribution strategy they used during the COVID-19 era.

“So in the past, we had large groups of people, the community coming to distribution sites all at once and during COVID, we realized that that was not sustainable. The risk of transmitting the COVID, the virus was already quite increased at that time.

“So we made changes to the way that we do distributions. So people now come in smaller groups. They are clustered by household size. So they go through the distribution site together in smaller groups and they receive their food together as a group and then distribute among themselves at the distribution site before they leave.

“Now at the distribution site during COVID time, we also had hand sanitation stations for example. We asked people to maintain a distance.

“So we’re drawing from those experiences to put all the measures in place at the distribution sites to make people aware, first of all, about cholera, because this is a great opportunity to bring so many people to the distribution sites to also pass the messages to them about good hygiene and health, but it’s also an opportunity then for us to draw from those experience to make some adjustments at the distribution site to make sure that they don’t become a hot spot of passing cholera from one person to another,” Ms Erdelmann said.

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