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Over 4.3 million people in Zimbabwe are acutely food insecure: IPC

More than 4.3 million people in Zimbabwe are acutely food insecure or classified in IPC Crisis or Emergency phases. That equates to 45% of the rural population in need of urgent action. The situation would be worse if not for a large-scale humanitarian food assistance programme ongoing in the country.

Currently, 45% of the rural population is in Crisis or Emergency (IPC Phase 3 and 4) while 29% is Stressed (IPC Phase 2). This is a deterioration from the last analysis conducted in June 2019, when 38% of the total population was in IPC Phase 3 and higher. The increase in the number of acutely food insecure population is primarily due to the lean season expected to extend until June. Review of the severity of the drivers of food insecurity in Zimbabwe shows that more households would likely be in a more challenging food security situation in the absence of a large-scale humanitarian food assistance programme ongoing in the country. The Government and partners are reaching large numbers of food-insecure households, and genuine efforts need to continue to reach the most vulnerable households and to provide them food, cash and livelihood assistance.

KEY DRIVERS

  • Poor rains: The poor rainfall season with the late start of rains in most districts of Zimbabwe has resulted in delayed or no green harvest, reduced water availability for livestock and households.
  • Low production: A poor harvest in 2019 has forced many households to become more reliant on markets to access staple food items. The poor season has also led to fewer casual labour opportunities which many poor households depend on for income.
  • High food prices: High prices of food items and other basic commodities mean that for many rural households normal purchases are no longer possible, and reliance on external assistance and social networks for food has become normal.

In light of the high prevalence of acute food insecurity, there is an urgent need to scale up of current assistance to reduce food consumption gaps and protect/save livelihoods for the 4.34 million people in IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) and above.

  • In response to increased vulnerability, the Government and its development partners are encouraged to continue efforts to improve efficiency in the identification of beneficiaries e.g. through the establishment of electronic beneficiary databases.
  • Management of Food Aid: Government should take far-reaching and monitorable actions to reform the way Zimbabwe receives and manages food aid. Management of Food Aid should be in-line with the “Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness” particularly item 3(ii) – increasing alignment of aid with partner country’s priorities, systems and procedures and helping to strengthen their capacities.
  • Livelihood resilience: rural livelihoods are under a lot of pressure due to consecutive poor rainfall seasons and high prices of inputs, forcing households to result to alternative livelihoods such as casual labour that provides low and unstable income. Emphasis should be put on rebuilding rural livelihoods through e.g. income diversification, household economic strengthening and building productive community assets.
  • Crop Production – Government to consider the importance and urgency of efforts to build resilience against climate variability and climate change amongst the rural populations of Zimbabwe. These efforts could include stepping up the promotion of climate-smart agriculture, water harvesting and irrigation development, particularly in the most drought-prone areas
  • Livestock Production: Livestock drought mitigation strategies need to be prioritized in areas that suffer most from the drought and where livestock makes the most significant contribution to households’ livelihoods. The mitigation strategies could include (i) Provision of subsidised livestock feeds and animal drugs; and (ii) Facilitating access to relief grazing.
  • Income and Expenditure – Interventions that strengthen households’ economy and resilience are thus recommended to ensure households remain food and nutrition secure.
  • Child Nutrition: In view of results showing increasing levels of acute malnutrition in several districts, Supplementary Feeding Programmes (CSFP) should be prioritised as a matter of urgency especially for districts with Global Acute Malnutrition above 5%.
  • Livelihoods and food security interventions coupled with nutrition education programmes should be implemented alongside emergency response programmes to ensure consumption of diverse and micronutrient-rich foods while simultaneously building community resilience to future shocks that compromise household food and nutrition security. There is a need for a robust and real-time community-based surveillance system to constantly monitor the tenuous nutritional situation.
  • Shocks and Hazards – Government and development partners should consider broadening social protection and resilience-building programmes, in order to strengthen absorptive and adaptive capacities of at-risk communities through scaling up of programmes such as Harmonised Social Cash transfers and Productive Community, Works targeting both labour and non-labour constrained households.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende