More than half of Zimbabwean population will need food aid, cabinet hears

15 May 2024 - 09:30
By Reuters
Villager Shupikai Makwavarara inspects her failing maize crop in rural Bindura near Harare, Zimbabwe. A devastating drought has led to widespread crop failure and millions of Zimbabweans will need food aid this year. File photo.
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo Villager Shupikai Makwavarara inspects her failing maize crop in rural Bindura near Harare, Zimbabwe. A devastating drought has led to widespread crop failure and millions of Zimbabweans will need food aid this year. File photo.

More than half of Zimbabwe's population will need food aid this year after a devastating drought led to widespread crop failure as humanitarian organisations seek funding to save many from hunger, the country's cabinet heard late on Tuesday.

About 6-million people in rural areas and 1.7-million in urban areas will require assistance, according to the Zimbabwe Livelihoods Assessment Committee.

Zimbabwe is among the countries most affected by the El Nino-induced drought in Southern Africa, with Zambia and Malawi also facing food shortages this year.

This is Zimbabwe's worst drought in 40 years, according to the government.

The latest crop assessment presented to the cabinet also revised upwards Zimbabwe's maize production deficit to 77% from last week's predictions.

“A 77% reduction in production to 744,271 metric tonnes is estimated for the 2023/2024 summer season, indicating a major shortfall for food and stock feed,” according to a cabinet brief.

A local consortium of private millers plans to import 1.4-million metric tonnes of white and yellow maize from Brazil and other countries to cover the food deficit.

The UN and the UN Children's Fund have appealed for financial assistance to save millions from hunger.

It follows the government's appeal for $2bn (R36.7bn) in food aid from donors.

Zimbabwe has failed to feed itself since 2000, when former president Robert Mugabe led land reforms which disrupted production, while climate change has worsened the country's ability to grow enough food.