Zimbabwe: Food needs increase

Report
from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 18 Sep 2003
(New York: 18 September 2003) - In Zimbabwe UN Humanitarian agencies are stepping up operations to address food shortages and their underlying causes. The UN has also identified the need to strengthen a national immunization program, which has been affected by the country's economic downturn.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is now scaling up operations in Zimbabwe as whole communities have exhausted their food stocks. In August, the WFP food aid programme reached rural populations in 31 districts, some 1.1 million beneficiaries, up from 22 districts in the post-harvest season in May. Assistance will increase to cover 36 districts in September. Food needs are expected to increase sharply over the next seven months before the April 2004 harvest.

To address longer-term food insecurity, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that NGOs have so far secured funds to provide agricultural assistance to slightly over 590,000 vulnerable households. This assistance will include seeds, such as maize, small grains, and bean seeds. In addition, several other types of assistance are planned, including training/extension services, and provision of inputs through a voucher and fairs mechanism. NGOs are still negotiating funding for additional interventions with major donors.

Health also remains a concern in Zimbabwe. The country has experienced a number of disease epidemics in the past 12 months threatening the lives of thousands of children and other vulnerable sections of the population. A recent outbreak of measles has been reported in Mutare District in Manicaland Province. Since the onset at the beginning of July, a total of 40 cases were reported. 68% of the people are below 5 years of age and only 3 (8%) had been vaccinated. Twelve reported deaths could not be laboratory confirmed. The outbreak is centered in the Marange community of the Apostolic faith sect, who do not believe in modern medicine -- including vaccination.

Ministry of Health and Child Welfare personnel conducted an urgent vaccination programme targeting all children between nine months and 14 years, with a total of 2000 children having been vaccinated to date. The surrounding communities should also be protected through vaccination of children (9 months to 14 years).

It is apparent from such outbreaks that there is an urgent need to strengthen the extended programme of immunization (EPI) through provision of adequate transport, gas and vaccines to conduct mop up vaccination campaigns in. Zimbabwe adopted a policy on the elimination measles in the country through outreach and static vaccination programmes. The extended programme of immunization (EPI) has been one of the flagship programmes run by the Zimbabwe government but currently it has been severely affected by the current humanitarian crisis coupled with the severe economic recession. The outreach programme has been the most affected component in the face of the unavailability of fuel, finance and transport. This has resulted in lack of access to basic health services particularly to those populations that have been resettled, thus making them more susceptible to disease outbreaks.

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