Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
The World Food Programme (WFP) has with effect from Wednesday started disbursing cash assistance to 103 700 people in eight urban centres countrywide.

Those set to benefit from the humanitarian program are from Gokwe, Redcliff, Kwekwe, Ruwa, Chinhoyi, Buhera, Chipinge, and Chegutu.

The package which is being funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is being implemented by WFP.

It is understood that WFP also seeks to reach out to 326 004 people in 22 vulnerable urban domains in September, from its target of 292 865 people across 19 urban areas in August.

According to USAID/Zimbabwe Mission Director, Mr Art Brown, the financial assistance will see the beneficiaries getting cash-based assistance equivalent to US$12 each.

He said the programme will run for six months.

“The United States remains committed to the people of Zimbabwe and we have provided a US$10 million support in terms of cash transfers for over 103 700 vulnerable Zimbabweans in eight urban areas.

“In addition, we are providing over US$60 million to support food distributions for nearly one million people in rural areas during the current lean season. During the pandemic, we will continue to prioritise our critical health and humanitarian assistance activities,” said Mr Brown.

Under the programme, USAID and WFP will reach the most vulnerable and food-insecure families, particularly women, people who are unemployed, and people suffering from chronic illness or disability.

WFP Zimbabwe Representative and Country Director, Ms Francesca Erdelmann said they had expanded the urban social assistance programme to ease the challenges faced by urban communities, which have been worsened by Covid-19.

She also commended the USAID for its timely intervention.

Ms Erdelmann added that they were scaling up to reach 326 004 people in 22 vulnerable urban domains in September, from its target of 292 865 people across 19 urban areas in August.

“WFP projections indicate that by year’s end, the number of food-insecure people will have surged by nearly 50 percent to 8.6 million – a staggering 60 percent of the population. In urban areas, where ongoing lockdown measures have triggered a massive loss of livelihoods, the number of food-insecure people is expected to rise to 3.3 million, from 2.2 million, as the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic become more pronounced,” said the official.