Hunger stalks Zimbabwean families

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ZIMBABWE – Brighton Makota, a Zimbabwean orphan from rural Muzarabani District, Mashonaland Central, paints a grim picture as he details his family’s food insecurity situation. 

“I stay with my elderly grandparents and other extended family members. While the food situation is generally bad for almost the entire community, our situation is worse given that the sorghum crop we planted this season was affected by quelea birds. Our food reserves will not last even two months. My grandfather is chronically ill and requires a special diet; something that is beyond us as a struggling rural family. The future is gloomy. All we pray for is that help comes in time to save us.”

The story of Brighton is one of the many similar tales currently unfolding in rural Zimbabwe, where 16 per cent of the population is facing food insecurity. So dire is the situation for the 1.5 million Zimbabweans who cannot meet their food needs, that the government has officially called on humanitarian agencies to play a part in mitigating the looming disaster. The most affected families include child-headed households, the chronically ill, and generally disadvantaged members of communities.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) recently launched an Emergency appeal that will support the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society to complement government food security efforts and alleviate human suffering. The Secretary General of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society says it is their hope that, with international support, the Red Cross would be able to reach out to affected families.

“The situation is bad, hence we have launched an Emergency Appeal, which will go a long way in assisting the needy,” says Maxwell Phiri, Secretary General, Zimbabwe Red Cross Society. “As is always the case, available resources outweigh competing humanitarian needs but we believe our efforts in the targeted districts will make a big difference.”

A local councillor in Muzarabani says the affected communities require food assistance, water and sanitation interventions. “The challenges are multi-faceted given that villagers had their crops destroyed by the early 2015 floods, while those crops that survived the flooding period were affected by the quelea birds,” says Oliver Maramba. “The floods also contaminated water sources and there are fears of outbreaks of water borne diseases.”

Zimbabwe Red Cross Society intends to support 2,166 households with 10,830 people targeted in Mudzi and Muzarabani Districts. The operation will provide basic food assistance, agriculture and livelihood support, clean water and hygiene promotion, so as to ameliorate the adverse effects of reduced nutritional intake. The assistance will also address negative coping mechanisms adopted by affected households during the hunger period. The Emergency Appeal of 833,000 Swiss francs is currently 40 per cent funded.

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