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

By Thomson Reuters May 15, 2024 | 2:13 AM

By Nyasha Chingono

HARARE (Reuters) – More than half of Zimbabwe’s population will need food aid this year following a devastating drought that 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 (ZIMLAC).

Zimbabwe is among the worst hit countries 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 of Zimbabwe 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 both food and stock feed,” according to a cabinet brief.

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

The United Nations and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have appealed for financial assistance to save millions from hunger.

It follows the government’s appeal for $2 billion in food aid from well wishers and 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.

(Reporting by Nyasha Chingono; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)