Major food appeal for Zimbabwe as WFP relief distributions begin
With more than five million Zimbabweans facing severe food shortages, WFP today appealed for US$140 million to provide vital relief rations over the next six months. Without additional contributions, WFP warned it will run out of stocks in January – at the very peak of the crisis.
Millions of Zimbabweans have already run out of food or are surviving on just one meal a day“Millions of Zimbabweans have already run out of food or are surviving on just one meal a day – and the crisis is going to get much worse in the coming months,” said Mustapha Darboe, WFP Regional Director for East, Central and Southern Africa.Mustapha Darboe, WFP Regional Director for East, Central and Southern Africa
“WFP can prevent this crisis from becoming a disaster but we need more donations – and we need them now.”
According to the FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, more than 2 million people are already in need of assistance. This figure will rise to 5.1 million – or 45 percent of the population – in early 2009. WFP is planning to assist around 4 million of those affected.
The situation is already critical in many rural areas, particularly in the worst affected southern districts but also in some districts in the east, centre and northwest of the country. A large number of farmers harvested little – if anything – this year and have now exhausted their meagre stocks. Many hungry families are reportedly living on one meal a day, exchanging precious livestock for buckets of maize or eating wild foods such as baobab and amarula.
Delayed by the government’s three-month suspension of most NGO field activities, WFP and its NGO partners began distributing monthly emergency rations under the large-scale vulnerable group feeding programme at the start of October, targeting rural communities worst affected by this year’s very poor harvest.
Life-saving food assistance
Tens of thousands of beneficiaries have already received life-saving food assistance under this programme over the past week and WFP hopes to reach 1.8 million by the end of the month. Operations will be scaled up to around 3.3 million in the first three months of 2009 before the main cereal harvest begins in April.
In addition, WFP is targeting around 800,000 people each month under its separate safety-net programmes – taking its overall caseload to around 2.5 million in October and more than 4 million in the first three months of 2009.
Given the nationwide nature of the food shortages, WFP will expand its relief programme to 37 districts – five more than in previous years. WFP will also enhance the nutritional quality of its food basket by adding corn-soya blend to its basic mix of cereals, pulses and vegetable oil to help prevent malnutrition rates from rising.
In Zimbabwe, 28 percent of children under five are already chronically malnourished.
To boost its already-substantial logistics operation, WFP has opened a new transhipment point in the central town of Gweru and a new warehouse in the South African border town of Musina, which has the capacity to bag 50,000 tons of food over the next six months.
But these plans are all subject to sufficient donations arriving in time. WFP currently faces a shortfall of over 145,000 metric tons of food, including 110,000 tons of cereals. Without extra donations, WFP will run out of supplies in January – just as needs are peaking.
“Our donors have been extraordinarily generous over the past six years, but the food crisis is far from over. We are urging them to dig deep once again,” said Darboe, adding that cash donations will allow WFP to purchase crucial commodities regionally.
In addition to WFP’s beneficiaries, a group of US-sponsored NGOs known as C-SAFE plans to provide food to over 1 million Zimbabweans in districts not covered by WFP. With these two humanitarian pipelines, food assistance should reach around 5 million people at the peak of the crisis.
While WFP has received almost US$175 million so far in 2008, another US$140 million is urgently needed to fund WFP’s huge emergency operation until April 2009.
Donors to WFP’s operations in Zimbabwe in 2008 include: United States (US$105 million); United Kingdom (US$18 million); Australia (US$14 million); Netherlands (US$11 million); EC (US$10 million); Canada (US$6 million); Japan (US$3 million); Norway (US$2 million); Switzerland (US$1.8 million); Ireland (US$1.5 million); Sweden (US$ 1.2 million); Italy (US$780,000); Spain (US$470,000); and, Greece (US$72,000).