HARARE - The United Nations says it needs $21 million to ease food insecurity in Zimbabwe as the country deals with measures imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The government says it is going to release funds to help people most affected by the COVID-19 lockdown, such as the old and the unemployed.
In a recent analysis, United Nations experts said 45 percent of Zimbabwe’s rural population is either in “crisis” or “emergency” mode in terms of food security.
The analysis said the situation is likely to worsen with the coronavirus pandemic.
The World Food Program is stepping in to try to ease the impact.
Via Whatsapp, Claire Nevill, the WFP spokeswoman in Zimbabwe, said the U.N. agency has increased the number of food distribution points to limit overcrowding and distributed protective clothing, among other hygienic measures, to curb the spread of the disease.
But Nevill said the WFP needs more funding.
“In order to provide food assistance to almost four million vulnerable Zimbabweans, in the context of these new health and safety measures, WPF requires an additional $21 million for the next six months. This funding shortfall is on top of an existing gap of $130 million faced by WFP Zimbabwe for the next six months. Our assessments show that the harvest will be much later this year. Until then this food assistance is critical to save millions across the country,” she said.
On Wednesday, Zimbabwe Minister for Social Welfare Paul Mavima said, while the WFP will mainly feed the rural population, the government will give cash to vulnerable people in urban areas affected by the 21-day lockdown, which started Monday.
“We have new vulnerables as a result of loss of income. The new cash transfers are for urban areas. We are estimating that initially we may be getting a million in these urban areas. But we will review as we go along,” he said.
Since the start of the lockdown, vendors have been asking for the Zimbabwean government to compensate for lost revenue.
Thirty-eight-year-old Patience Rugare, who usually runs a stall selling second-hand clothes in Harare, said she needs immediate assistance.
Rugare said that when this lockdown started, she had no food in stock as she lives hand to mouth. We are going to die of hunger as we are just seated at home. I wish they would assist us with cash so that we can survive.
The United Nations says Zimbabwe’s food insecurity is caused by a combination of recurring droughts and a moribund economy. Fortunately, the country has seen only one death from coronavirus so far, and only eight confirmed cases of the virus overall.