Sunday, March 27, 2016

600 000 Families Get Food Relief in Zimbabwe
Lincoln Towindo
Zimbabwe Herald

More than 600 000 food insecure households have begun receiving 50kg bags of maize monthly under Government’s Vulnerable Food Assistance Programme as authorities shield vulnerable communities from the El Nino-induced drought.

This comes as the State has activated systems to secure over 425 606 tonnes of the staple grain required to feed the vulnerable for the next 13 months. Around four million Zimbabweans are food insecure and require assistance.

President Mugabe has declared the drought a national disaster, resulting in Vice-President Emmerson Mnangwagwa launching an international relief appeal for US$1,6 billion.

Government is seeking assistance in food importation, safe water supply, and micro-nutrient/under-five and school children feeding.

It is also focusing on irrigation infrastructure rehabilitation and production, livestock support and de-stocking, and wildlife relief.

The United Nations and its partners have so far mobilised US$76 million in response to Government’s appeal. Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Mrs Priscah Mupfumira told The Sunday Mail: “Government is expected to distribute 30 400,45 metric tonnes per month for 608 008 vulnerable and food insecure households, providing a 50kg bag per household. We, however, expect to receive more grain before the beginning of the harvest season.

“Before the 2017 harvest, the country needs 425 606mt for the vulnerable food assistance programme only excluding grain for private millers and direct private buyers from GMB.”

Minister Mupfumira said the Grain Importation Logistics and Distribution Task Force, set up after the declaration of the state of disaster, was responsible for importation of maize.

Zimbabwe Farmers Union director Mr Paul Zakaria said drought mitigation strategies being taken by Government were welcome, but there was need to increase the pace of distribution of food aid.

“Government should move faster in most parts especially rural areas in Manicaland, Matabeleland, Midlands and Masvingo provinces where villagers are selling livestock and property cheap in order to get maize.

“If the distribution is fast, it will save a lot of cattle in Matabeleland and Midlands since the private buyers are buying them cheap, dispossession the rural folk of their wealth.

“Government should also start mobilising farming inputs for the next farming season as it is critical in ensuring we get food if rains are favourable,” said Mr Zakaria.

Zimbabwe, like many countries in Africa, is experiencing drought due to negative effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon.

In South Africa, more than half of the plus-50 million population faces hunger, with the country requiring at least R20 billion to import five to six million tonnes of maize.

According to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee, about 2,8 million people in that country need food aid.

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