Urban hunger worsened in Zimbabwe with 2.4 million people food insecure – WFP

Zimbabwe has seen an increase in urban hunger over the past year with 2.4 million people now struggling to put food on the table, the World Food Program (WFP) said on Monday.

With diminished employment prospects and depleted livelihoods due to Covid-19 lockdowns, “42 percent of urban households will not be able to meet their cereal requirements this year compared to 30 percent in 2019,” the United Nations (UN) agency said, citing a new report from the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC).

ZimVAC is a technical advisory committee comprised of government representatives, development partners, UN agencies such as the WFP, NGOs, technical agencies, and the academia

“Families will find it difficult to put food on the table, most of them have been stuck at home and were not able to go to work, the fortunate ones will skip meals while those without will have to go to bed with an empty stomach,” WFP representative and country director Francesca Erdelmann said

“For the most vulnerable people, hunger will have a lasting effect on their lives. The deteriorating hunger situation, caused by Covid-19 threatens to be their biggest challenge.”

The food assessment report, WFP said, found a sharp decline in the standard of living across poor metropolitan communities with 83 percent of households unable to afford basics such as mealie meal, salt, and cooking oil compared to 76.8 percent in 2019.

“One of the challenges faced by the urban households was sharp price increases of basic commodities while the purchasing power of the Zimbabwe dollar has been eroded by inflation and negative economic effects of Covid-19,” the UN agency added.

To mitigate the insecurity, WFP, which runs an urban assistance scheme that delivers monthly cash transfers to 326,000 people in 23 urban areas, says it plans to scale up the number of recipients to 550,000 and expand the programme to 28 areas.
Under the programme, vulnerable households receive cash through electronic transfers and vouchers that enable them to buy food items from selected retailers, WFP said.

The UN food assistance agency said it was also implementing a scheme called the ‘Urban Social Assistance and Resilience Building Programme’ to “support long-term development so that vulnerable communities are better able to withstand shocks,”

“These include supporting urban agriculture such as mushroom and vegetable farming, building market linkages between rural-urban food value chains, setting up savings and lending groups and entrepreneurship training to support the establishment of small businesses.”