The Chronicle

ZIMBABWE’s food security situation remains dire due to the El-Nino induced drought which has resulted in the country harvesting less than 50 percent of average annual production of maize spawning a severe depletion of the nation’s strategic grain reserves. 

Government estimates the maize harvest at about 852 000 tonnes against a national requirement of 1,8 million tonnes. Consequently the food supply gap stands at more than 900 000 tonnes with production at communal farm level being the worst affected and granaries enough to sustain households for a maximum of three months only. 

Already, distress calls are coming from virtually all the provinces with the drought-prone regions in Matabeleland among the worst hit. More than 2 000 cattle have succumbed to drought in Matabeleland South with chiefs reporting hunger among households in their jurisdictions. It is against this background that President Mnangagwa has declared the 201819 drought a State of National Disaster a move which has unlocked a wave of humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe. 

Addressing the media on the 28th Cabinet Decision Matrix on Tuesday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said the declaration had paved way for the launch of the Revised Zimbabwe Humanitarian Appeal by Government and the United Nations. “Cabinet was informed by the Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing July Moyo that His Excellency President ED Mnangagwa has today declared a State of National Disaster in regard to the El-Nino-induced drought, which adversely affected the country’s agricultural production and food security in the 20182019 agricultural season. 

“The declaration paves way for the launch of the country’s appeal for drought relief assistance and the associated resilience building support by the international community. The United Nations said Zimbabwe requires in excess of US$331 million to address the humanitarian needs of 3,7 million people between the period July 2019 and April 2020,” Minister Mutsvangwa said. 

Speaking during the launch of the Revised Zimbabwe Humanitarian Appeal later in the day, Minister Moyo who chairs the Cabinet Committee on Environment, Disaster Prevention and Management said: “We also made sure we have people who come from the private sector. We want them to hear what the international community is doing to help Zimbabweans so that when we approach them they know we are not alone. We have support. We have those who can support us.” 

Following the launch, United States Ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Brian Nichols announced that Washington would provide an additional US$45 million in response to the social challenges while the European Union delegation head of development and cooperation Ms Irene Giribaldi said the bloc stood with the people of Zimbabwe and donated an additional US$11 million to address the immediate humanitarian needs of the country’s population. 

“The fund will be used to provide essential foods and inputs from this critical period to the harvest period next year,” she said. 

The United Kingdom welcomed the launch of the humanitarian appeal, saying it availed an additional £7,9 million last month ahead of the launch yesterday. We applaud President Mnangagwa for declaring the drought situation a State of National Disaster and this will allow for the necessary resources to be mobilised to avert a catastrophic situation in the country. 

We also welcome the swift response of the UN, US and the EU to Zimbabwe’s appeal for help and hope that other countries will emulate their kind gesture and assist the people of Zimbabwe. The impact of the 201819 drought coupled with the continuing macro-economic challenges have resulted in severe food insecurity with households in both rural and urban areas in need of food aid. 

While Government has a strategy and plans for addressing the increasing humanitarian needs of its citizens, there are still gaps that need to be filled and the appeal is meant to address those. We hail the UN for appealing to development partners and friends of Zimbabwe to come to the party during this difficult time. We hope they will heed this call and assist the country to mitigate the effects of drought on its population. 

We are also glad that the UN and its partners are supporting the Government to undertake the necessary reforms as outlined in the Transitional Stabilisation Programme to tackle the root cause of the socio-economic challenges in the country. 

While the reforms are causing temporary pain and suffering at the moment, they will in the long run, stabilise the economy. 

In this regard, we call on Zimbabweans to be patient as the Government implements its reform agenda as it will ultimately benefit them.  The prolonged drought is only a minor setback to the TSP and it will take just one normal rainy season to put things back on track. 

In the meantime, we urge communities to be united in the face of food shortages and assist each other where they can. Government and its humanitarian partners will soon be on the ground distributing aid to those who need it.