GENEVA - The United Nations says nearly three million people in drought-stricken Zimbabwe are going hungry. The world body expects that number to exceed four million as the full impact of the El Nino weather phenomenon kicks in.
U.N. Resident Coordinator for Zimbabwe Bishow Parajuli says the impact of little rain and low crop yields following two years of drought is painfully visible in Matabeleland and other dry lands.
“I recently visited that area with a number of donors and ambassadors," said Parajuli. " We could really see the desperation and severity of the situation.”
A few weeks ago, the United Nations appealed for $360 million to provide life-saving assistance for more than three million people. The priority needs are for food, water, health, nutrition, sanitation and protection.
Parajuli says $70 million has been received, leaving a gap of $290 million. He says it is critical for donors to respond generously and immediately to this appeal.
“Given Zimbabwe is a landlocked country and also the whole southern Africa region is affected by El Nino, and lack of surplus of maize, it is very critical to plan in advance in terms of importation and supply chain delivery ," said Parajuli. " So, earlier response will really help save lives and suffering among the population.”
Parajuli says he is particularly worried about the so-called lean season between September and March. This is the period between harvests when farmers’ food stocks are at their lowest.
He says people will be severely affected by the lack of food, and many will not be able to count on their cattle as a lifeline as tens of thousands have died from lack of water and grazing land.