The UN is procuring food assistance for 4.1 million Zimbabweans, 25% of the population in a country where shortages are exacerbated by runaway inflation and climate-induced drought.
Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of southern Africa, is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by soaring inflation and shortages of food, fuel, medicines and electricity.
“We are concerned as the situation continues to deteriorate,” Eddie Rowe, World Food Programme (WFP) country director, speaking from Harare, told a Geneva news briefing.
“We believe if we do not reach out and assist these people the situation will blow up into a major crisis,” he said.
The 240 000 tonnes of food aid, to be procured internationally, represents a doubling of the current WFP programme in Zimbabwe.
The agency aims to purchase maize from Tanzania and Mexico as well as pulses from Kenya and potentially the Black Sea area, Rowe said.
Zimbabwe had one year of normal rainfall in the last five and “markets are not functioning”, he said. “There are families going to bed hungry without a meal a day,” Rowe added.
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government will scrap its plan to remove grain subsidies next year, a move it says will protect impoverished citizens from rising food prices, state media reported.
Rights groups say at least 17 people were killed and hundreds arrested in January, after security forces cracked down on protests against fuel price increases. Police banned further protests.
“For a country once the breadbasket of southern Africa the situation is nothing short of tragic,” WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said.