More than two million Zimbabweans are on the cusp of “starvation,” the food agency of the United Nations said, launching a $331.5 million appeal for aid to help the South African country recover from a disastrous drought.
David Beasley, World Food Program (WFP) executive director, said Tuesday that 2.3 million people in rural Zimbabwe are in “crisis emergency mode” and need food aid now.
The drought induced by El Nino halved the maize harvest, and President Emmerson Mnangwa proclaimed it a national disaster.
The drought comes with Zimbabweans suffering the worst financial crisis in a decade – commodity prices such as sugar, cooking oil and rice have more than doubled since June, boosting inflation to over 175%.
Beasley said those in need of emergency food aid in rural Zimbabwe would boost to 5.5 million by next year. The government estimates that an additional 2.2 million people also need food aid in urban regions, bringing the total to 7.7 million, over half of the population of the country. The $331.5 m would be used to help struck families with food, water, hygiene, and cash handouts.
In addition to food shortages, the appeal also targeted Cyclone Idai’s victims ‘ humanitarian needs, which earlier this year ripped through parts of eastern Zimbabwe. The cyclone, which has also affected parts of Malawi and Mozambique, has affected 570,000 Zimbabweans and has displaced 50,000 of them.
After a military coup in November 2017, Mnangagwa took over from long-time leader Robert Mugabe. Last year, he won controversial elections, promising to revive the struggling economy, create jobs, attract foreign investment, and turn the country into a middle-income economy by 2030. But he has struggled to deliver on or initiate meaningful political reforms to economic promises.
Zimbabwe also experiences its worst power cuts in three years, partly because the drought in Kariba, the country’s largest hydroelectric plant, has reduced water levels. The main opposition party said it was planning street demonstrations next week to protest against the handling of the economy by the government in the midst of rising discontent.