WORLD VISION has called for more funding to address a growing hunger crisis in Zimbabwe, after reports that more than a quarter of the rural population (2.8 million) do not have enough to eat, owing to record-breaking droughts.
It came as the UN World Food Programme (WFP) pledged to extend relief operations to vulnerable people in Zimbabwe until 2017, at a cost of about £150 million, in an attempt to combat the effects of an unusually strong El Niño, currently sweeping southern and eastern Africa (News, 8 January, 11 March).
The extreme-weather pattern, which affects global temperatures and ocean currents, has dried up the rains, devastating crops and livestock from Ethiopia to Zimbabwe. More than 36 million people are facing hunger, the UN said.
World Vision’s Beatrice Mwangi said: “Thousands of children in Zimbabwe and across Southern Africa are slipping into malnutrition and death. If we do not see a positive response in funding, we may see even more children malnourished or dying.”
The WFP will provide food and cash-based assistance to 730,000 Zimbabweans this month, rising to an estimated 2.2 million at the beginning of next year. The government, partners, and individual donors will be gathering aid for the rest of the population.
“Many rural communities are in the grip of hunger, and this is set to continue into next year,” the WFP country director in Zimbabwe, Eddie Rowe, said.
UNICEF has warned that Zimbabwe is facing its worst malnutrition rates in 15 years, after reports that nearly 33,000 children are in urgent need of treatment for severe malnutrition. In February, the country’s President, Robert Mugabe, declared a state of disaster.
Earlier this month, the Prime Minister of Swaziland, Dr B. Sibusiso Dlamini, also declared a national emergency, saying that the drought had had “devastating consequences” on the land-locked nation (News, 11 March).
Ethiopia released their national emergency plan in January. The country is thought to be the worst hit, and it has been suggested that more than 18 million people will be affected this year (News, 8 January).
The UN warned that 350,000 children will suffer severe malnourishment, requiring intense medical and nutritional treatment to survive, and that more than 10 million people in the country will be in need of food aid.
UNICEF is already planning to treat more than two million children for malnutrition. The UNICEF representative to Ethiopia, Gillian Mellsop, said that the country had been dealt a “double blow”, both from long-term climate change, which is altering the rainy seasons, and from El Niño, which, she said, has led to the “worst drought in decades”.