The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
says up to five million people in Zimbabwe may be going hungry by the
beginning of next year. The Red Cross is appealing for $26.6 million
to provide emergency assistance to 260,000 of the most vulnerable
people. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Red Cross headquarters in
A recent United Nations assessment of the food situation
in Zimbabwe says the country is facing the worst harvest on record and
this year's winter crop may only produce about 40 percent of the
needs. The report predicts more than five million people or 45 percent
of Zimbabwe's population are likely to be short of food between January
and March 2009.
Red Cross Operations Coordinator for Africa,
John Roche, tells VOA, the organization is stepping up its humanitarian
operation now to prepare for what will become a very critical situation
later in the year.
"So, we are appealing for funds now to be
able to put, to be able to secure pipelines for food, to put capacities
on the ground and to start and be able to address that we will not
reach a situation where, several months down the line we may see people
starving, dying," he said. "This is really the beginning of a
A number of factors have contributed
to this food crisis. Drought and inconsistent rainfall have resulted in
lower agricultural production. The country is experiencing tremendous
social-economic crises, including hyperinflation, 80 percent
unemployment and a raging HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Roche says those
receiving Red Cross assistance include HIV/AIDS victims, the
chronically ill, people who are caring for the sick and orphans. He
says the program is taking place in two stages.
"First, we are
providing a nutritionally balanced - we are giving people the means
that they can cover their daily calorie intake," said Roche. "At the
second stage, of course, we are going to provide, we are looking at
the livelihoods support where we will provide means-we are also looking
at livestock replenishment."
"That is not the case now that we cover the
gap where there is hunger, but also that we try to make these people a
bit more self-reliant and self sufficient," he added.
The government of
Robert Mugabe has restricted the movements of a number of
non-governmental organizations, limiting their ability to provide aid
to the needy. Roche says the all-volunteer Red Cross in Zimbabwe is
community-based and has no restrictions on its movement.
notes this preliminary emergency appeal is based on initial assessments
of the situation. He says the appeal may be revised and possibly
increased as the needs of vulnerable communities become clearer.