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Time to feed hungry nation, not globetrotting

15 Mar 2019 at 17:07hrs | Views
THE government is appealing for US$3,2 billion emergency assistance in the middle of a drought which is set to worsen the vulnerability of long-suffering Zimbabweans, the majority of whom are already struggling to make ends meet.

The drought, coming at a time the country is facing serious economic challenges-caused by the government's lack of fiscal discipline, as well as high levels corruption, looting and mismanagement - is a stark reminder of how Zimbabwe has regressed over the years.

Once regarded the breadbasket of southern Africa and charged with ensuring food security in the region, Zimbabwe has now been reduced to a basket case and a perennial beggar. A total of US$1,4 billion of the US$3,2 billion sought has been budgeted for food assistance.

Formerly a net exporter of food, Zimbabwe now has insufficient grain reserves, thanks to the decimation of agriculture through a haphazard and violent land reform programme, failure to give farmers security of tenure to enable them to invest and boost production, lack of irrigation infrastructure and the government's lethargy to avail inputs on time, among other reasons. The food security situation is a reflection of the pathetic state of the economy and failure of governance.

According to a 38-page document, titled 2019 to 2020 - Domestic and International Appeal for Assistance, prepared by the Finance ministry with input from ministries such as Agriculture, Health, Primary and Secondary Education and Social Welfare, about 7,5 million people in both rural and urban arears need assistance. This is approximately half of the Zimbabwean population.

The government's plea is confirmation that the food security situation in the country is indeed dire. Of course, the drought has affected the entire region, but the effects will be more severe in Zimbabwe given the state of the economy, lack of planning and poor governance.

To aggravate the situation, a large percentage of the population is unemployed, while incomes have been severely eroded by inflation.

Unless the international community comes to the rescue, there is going to be a huge demand for food imports, putting pressure on the scarce foreign currency. Zimbabwe has import cover of less than a week and will therefore not be able to import adequate grain.

Fortunately, the international community has begun to respond. The United Nations last month launched a US$234 million international aid appeal to help the country.

According to the UN, an estimated 2,9 million people in rural areas and 1,5 million in urban areas are already severely food insecure, including one million facing emergency levels of food insecurity.

Given the humanitarian crisis at hand, one hopes President Emmerson Mnangagwa's administration will ensure the poor and vulnerable are fed. Hopefully, the little foreign currency that is available will be channelled towards ensuring food security, instead of trips, cars and other luxuries

Source - the independent
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