The UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Tuesday said that an estimated 2.2 million people in Zimbabwe are expected to need food assistance by early next year before the harvest period in March.
‘Many districts, particularly in the south, harvested very little and people are already trying to stretch out their dwindling food stocks,’ a reliable source in New York quoted WFP Country Director, Mr. Sory Ouane, as saying in a statement.
He said ‘WFP is working closely with the government and partners to respond to the looming food crisis and will start food and cash distributions to the most vulnerable in October.’
He disclosed that ‘the predicted levels of hunger, released by the UN-supported Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, would be the highest since early 2009, when more than half the population required food support.’
‘To meet the increasing needs, WFP and its partners will provide cereals harvested in the region, as well as imported vegetable oil and pulses,’ Mr. Ouane said.
According to him: ‘Cash transfers will also be used in selected areas to give people flexibility and help support local markets. Distributions will be gradually scaled up from October until harvest time in March next year.’
The WFP noted that some of the factors that have contributed to the high levels of food insecurity include adverse weather conditions, the unavailability and high cost of agricultural supplies such as seeds and fertilizers, and projected high cereal prices due to the poor maize harvest.
It said: ‘In rural markets for example, grain prices are 15 per cent higher than during the same period last year’.
The statement also said: ‘To help people deal with future droughts and other shocks, WFP has been implementing a Cash/Food for Assets programme in rural Zimbabwe since June’.
Under the programme, vulnerable communities receive food or cash while taking part in projects such as the construction of community irrigation systems and deep wells.
The government is also taking action to address this issue.
It said that, for the first time in 2012, the Zimbabwean government contributed some US$10 million worth of grain towards a joint relief operation with WFP and its partners.
The programme provided food assistance to some 1.4 million people in 37 rural districts.