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Motherly Love Not Enough To Keep Hunger At Bay in Zimbabwe

Sakina Chikwanda is no longer pleading with her neighbours to share their food. She is receiving monthly food rations and can cook daily meals for her family. (Photo:WFP/Victoria Cavanagh)

Mothers and grandmothers around the world tend to want to feed their families. For Sakina Chikwanda in Zimbabwe, this seemed an impossibility following drought in parts of the country. The World Food Programme (WFP) has partnered with the Government of Zimbabwe to ensure those most vulnerable have enough to eat until the next harvest.

Sakina lives in Zaka district, known for – among other things - high temperatures and minimal employment opportunities other than farming. She has one hectare of land, but at 78 years of age, can only manage to cultivate a quarter of it. Following late and limited rains at the start of the last planting season, Sakina managed to harvest just four 50kg bags of maize. In a normal year she would harvest around 15 bags.

“We looked up at the sky and waited and waited for the rain, but not much came,” she says.

When these four bags were eaten, she started pleading with her neighbours to share the little food they had. Her family of six also started picking wild (and potentially poisonous) fruits.

Sakina is one of the 1.6 million people – almost one fifth of the rural population - being assisted by WFP and the Government of Zimbabwe until the next harvest in April 2013. The Government has allocated 35, 000 MT of grain from the Strategic Grain Reserve towards humanitarian assistance, and WFP is complementing this with oil and mixed pulses, as well as providing the logistics support to transport the grain from surplus to deficit areas.

“I’m happy to get this food because I won’t be bothering my neighbors anymore and I can cook two meals in a day,” she says. “They started complaining that I was begging too much.”

In addition to food distributions, WFP is providing cash transfers to some 300, 000 people in areas with functioning local markets so they can purchase their own cereal. This not only provides greater flexibility and individual choice, but also boosts the local economy.

WFP has been able to respond to this year’s food security crisis in Zimbabwe and feed families like Sakina’s thanks to the support of the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, the European Union, Switzerland and Australia.