NEARLY 2,4 million people living in urban areas in Zimbabwe are facing severe hunger in the forthcoming January to March lean season.

Speaking yesterday during World Food Day celebrations at Insukamini Irrigation Scheme in Vungu, Lower Gweru, World Food Programme (WFP) country director Eddie Rowe said there was need for unity to alleviate hunger in the country.

“According to ZIMVAC (Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee), more than 5,5 million rural people are expected to be food insecure during the peak of this year’s lean season.

Additionally, early projections suggested that 2,2 million more living in high-density urban areas, will also be affected,” he said.

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Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Sekai Nzenza (pictured) told a meeting of rural district councillors yesterday in Harare that Matabeleland North and Masvingo provinces had the greatest need for food aid, with 36% and 34% of population facing starvation due to drought.

“This year we are seeking more food for the people, there is an increase of 11% to 2,4 million people seeking assistance. My ministry’s mandate is for people to get food,” Nzenza said.

Government recently announced that food aid distribution would be rolled out in urban areas in a bid to alleviate hunger that has been worsened by climate change effects as well as the economic meltdown currently bedevilling the country.

To date, WFP is expected to assist about two million people in rural areas between October and December with the number expected to rise to 2,7 million by January.
Rowe said there was need for long term investment to alleviate hunger.

“Zero hunger cannot be achieved by providing emergency food aid alone. More investment is needed on building the resilience of at-risk communities towards the threat of future climate shocks,” he said.

“The destruction caused by Cyclone Idai, on top of this year’s severe drought, and coupled with the current economic crisis, should act as a wake-up call. Investment in long-term projects that promote both economic and environmental sustainability are no longer a suggestion, but a necessity.”

This year’s celebrations were held under the theme Healthy Diets for a Zero Hunger World and were attended by various stakeholders, among them senior government officials.