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What are the current issues in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a low-income, food deficit country, ranked at 156 out of 187 on the 2014 UNDP Human Development Index. Currently, 72 percent of the population live below the national poverty line (living on less than USD 1.25 per day). Thirty percent of the rural poor are considered to be ‘food poor’, or ‘extremely poor’. Food and nutrition security remain fragile and subject to natural and economic shocks in Zimbabwe, chronic undernutrition remains relatively high, despite some improvements. Dietary diversity is generally poor and consumption of protein is insufficient. Only 11 percent of Zimbabwean children 6-23 months receive a minimum acceptable diet. One-third of Zimbabwe’s children are stunted, or short for their age. 

In recent years, food production in Zimbabwe has been devastated by a number of factors including natural disasters and economic and political instability. Recurrent drought ( due to increasingly erratic rainfall patterns), a series of poor harvests, high unemployment, restructuring of the agriculture sector and a high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate – at 14.7 percent, the fifth highest in the world - have all contributed to increasing levels of vulnerability and acute food insecurity since 2001. This situation has necessitated large-scale humanitarian food relief operations in the country.

Rural poverty has increased from 63 percent in 2003 to 76 percent in 2014. Most households in the rural areas are net food buyers: they do not produce enough food to meet their needs through to the next harvest season and as a consequence, have to rely on markets and other non-farm sources such as casual labour to bridge the food gap to the next season. As such, a number of people in rural areas will struggle to meet their daily food needs.

Zimbabwe’s 2014/15 agricultural season registered a 51 percent decline in maize production compared to the 2013/14 season due to drought which was particularly severe in the south of the country. According to a report published in July 2015 by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC), some 1.5 million people - 16 percent of the rural population - will have insufficient means to meet their minimum food needs during the 2015-16 lean season, that period prior to the next harvest when domestic food stocks tend to become depleted. This represents a 164 percent increase on the numbers of food insecure people during 2013-14 though it is only a little above the five-year average for Zimbabwe. In response to this, WFP is due to launch its relief operation end of September 2015 that will be based on a combination of food distributions and cash-based transfers where possible.

The country continues to face economic stress which has implications on food security, especially for vulnerable groups in rural areas. Due to deflation/ disinflation, household incomes remain low and liquidity challenges affect the demand for goods and services, especially for poor households. Barter is a common form of exchange during lean periods. Where grain is used for such transactions, household food stocks tend to get exhausted at a faster rate.

In July 2015, WFP Zimbabwe and the Government of Zimbabwe, launched a Zero Hunger Strategic Review. This provides an overview of the food and nutrition security situation in the country and establishes an understanding of the country’s demographics and socio- economic context. It compares the provisions of the UN Secretary General’s global Zero Hunger Challenge with the prevailing situation regarding food and nutrition security, and outlines the causes of hunger in the country and presents the key drivers of food and nutrition security. It aims to refocus attention on the critical issues needed to accelerate the attainment of zero hunger in Zimbabwe.

What the World Food Programme is doing in Zimbabwe

WFP’s Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) 200453—Responding to Humanitarian Needs and Strengthening Resilience to Food Insecurity—promotes a transition from emergency assistance to recovery while maintaining a capacity for emergency response. The programme strikes a balance between direct implementation by WFP and support to the national Government to enhance national safety-net systems. The three main activities under the PRRO are:

Disaster response and risk reduction (Lean Season Assistance): The programme is designed to support seasonally food-insecure vulnerable households affected by the severe drought which ravaged the country during the growing season. The 2015/16 lean season relief operation is due to start in September 2015 and run up to March 2016. WFP’s response consists of a mix of food distributions and cash-based transfers where market conditions allow. The programme also supports national capacity development for disaster response and risk management.

Health and nutrition promotion: In addition to Moderately Acutely Malnourished (MAM) HIV/AIDS and TB clients, WFP assists MAM pregnant and nursing women and children under five at clinics. A stunting prevention programme is being implemented in a district where WFP is already implementing MAM treatment.

Food Assistance for Assets providing cash and/or in-kind transfers: In line with WFP’s new strategic direction in Zimbabwe, these activities build resilience through the creation of productive community assets. Activities promote self-reliance, reduce disaster risk, empower vulnerable communities to move away from dependency on food assistance, and support climate change adaption. 

Featured Zimbabwe publications

  • Zimbabwe: WFP Country Brief (PDF, 421 KB)

    A Country Brief provides the latest snapshot of the country strategy, operations, operational highlights (achievements and issues/challenges), partnerships and country background.

  • Zimbabwe: WFP Situation Report

    A Situation Report is a concise operational document with latest updates on the World Food Programme's (WFP) response to an emergency. It gives an overview of WFP’s activities and informs the wider humanitarian community and other interested stakeholders about WFP’s response.

Looking for more publications on Zimbabwe? Visit the Zimbabwe publications archive.