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Mnangagwa extends US$3,2bn begging bowl

by Staff reporter
15 Mar 2019 at 17:14hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE - with 7,5 million people or half the population in need of food aid - is appealing for US$3,2 billion emergency assistance to avert a humanitarian crisis characterised by hunger and a crumbling health system, a government document has revealed.

According to the document, titled 2019 to 2020 - Domestic and International Appeal for Assistance, prepared by the Finance Ministry, with the assistance of other ministries such as Agriculture, Health, Primary and Secondary Education, as well as Social Welfare, the money is meant to mitigate the impact of a poor summer cropping season.

The plea for food aid comes despite an assurance by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at a rally in Mwenezi last month that the country had enough grain reserves to ensure that no one would starve in the wake of an El-Niño-induced drought being experienced in Zimbabwe and other southern African countries.

From the US $3,2 billion, a total of US$1,4 billion has been budgeted for food assistance, while US$1,3 billion is for agriculture and US$150 million is earmarked for education capacitation. About US$37 million has been budgeted for health needs, while the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (Wash) programme will require US$12,5 million and US$150 million will be for logistics.

According to the 38-page document, government says the US$1,452 billion will cover the urgent food relief requirements of 7,5 million people in both rural and urban arears, translating to US$865, 6 million for rural and US$585, 9 million for urban areas.

"The Government of Zimbabwe requires a total of US$3,2 billion with effect from February 2019 to March 2020. This is for providing humanitarian assistance in the short to medium term, also taking into account sustainable measures which will assist in the event that the drought prolongs to the 2019/20 agricultural season," the report says. "The food response aims to ensure that every Zimbabwean has access to food, hence free from hunger. Both rural and urban areas will be earmarked for food assistance. Priority actions include provision of monthly food assistance (in kind or cash), monthly cash assistance and provision of a protective nutritional ration.

"The interventions will prioritise children and pregnant women at highest risk of morbidity and mortality. Priority actions will include increasing access to life-saving therapeutic and supplementary foods, implementing active screening, building the capacity of facility-based health workers and conducting seasonal nutrition assessments."

Mnangagwa's government is also appealing to the international community to respond to acute shortages of medicines, diagnostic equipment and consumables in the country stemming from the economic crisis through a US$37 million appeal targeted at 9,8 million people out of a 12,2 population need.

"Priority actions will include strengthening disease surveillance/early warning, strengthening laboratory capacity, strengthening case management for diarrhoeal diseases and procurement of essential medicines and medical supplies," the document reads.

Zimbabwe has suffered outbreaks of cholera and typhoid as a result of poor sanitation, erratic water supply and multi-drug resistance, resulting in 65 deaths and 10 630 cholera cases being recorded.

To add to the health crisis, senior doctors this week downed their tools, citing poor working conditions as well as lack of drugs and equipment to execute their duties.

The drought will not only affect food production, but also hydro-powered electricity generation and water rationing, which will put Zimbabweans at risk of diarrhoeal diseases. In the report, government admits that high food prices are worsening the humanitarian crisis.

"Added to the impact the El-Niño will have on the food production (availability and accessibility), it will also have a negative impact on the quality of diets which results in hunger and malnutrition. Higher food prices together with reduced income during drought will severely impact the purchasing power and food diversity among the poor, leading to consumption of subsistence diets and thereby multiple micronutrient malnutrition," the reports says.

"Urban households mostly depend on the market for food and do not produce enough food to feed themselves. A continued rise in food prices has ripple effects on food access. Consequently, food may be available on the market, but its price will be simply unaffordable to most households, considering that 38,2% of the urban population is deemed poor.

According to official statistics from the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency Poverty Income, Consumption and Expenditure Survey, an estimated 76% of rural households are poor, while 23% are deemed extremely poor. Rural households were the worst affected by poverty in comparison with urban households (76% rural and 38% urban households).

The current Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee report says the number of food insecure people was projected at 28% which translates to 2,4 million people who are unable to meet their food needs at peak (January to March 2019) to complete the consumption year.

Source - the independent