2.2 million Zimbabweans expected to need food assistance

17 December 2013, Harare, Zimbabwe - Drought, high food prices due to a poor harvest, and a lack of funds to purchase agricultural inputs, have resulted in a 32 per cent increase in the number of people in Zimbabwe who do not have enough food to eat this holiday season.

“It is not as dramatic or newsworthy as an earthquake or a flood, but for Zimbabwe, when corn production falls to less than half of what a country needs, and when the price of maize rises by about 40 per cent during a single year, then the humanitarian impact is that of a major disaster,” said Alexander Matheou, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) regional representative for southern Africa. “People will go hungry, livelihoods will suffer, property will be lost or sold, children will drop out of school, health will decline and lives may be lost.”

According to a recent food security survey conducted by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, 2.2 million Zimbabweans, or 25 per cent of the rural population, are expected to need food assistance between January and March next year.

In response, IFRC has launched an emergency appeal of 815,610 Swiss francs to assist more than 10,000 people affected by food insecurity in Zimbabwe.

“A long term strategy needs to consider the investment and policies to make communities more resilient to crop failures, but the short term, humanitarian imperative is to preserve lives and livelihoods over the coming months,” said Matheou.

IFRC will work with local staff and volunteers at the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society to assist 10,500 food insecure people in the southern Gwanda district in Matebeleland South Province. Gwanda is one the worst affected areas in the country. Presently, there are not any other organizations responding to food insecurity in the area.

The Red Cross response will provide immediate food assistance through food vouchers to those most in need in the region. Longer term livelihood recovery activities will include training communities with skills and knowledge to better anticipate and cope with disasters, and improved farming methods. The operation will also address water access issues in the area through the rehabilitation of boreholes and the promotion of safe water and hygiene practices.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, the IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

For further information or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Zimbabwe:

• Oforbuike Nwobodo , county representative, IFRC Mobile: +263 722 134 319, E-mail: oforbuike.nwobodo@ifrc.org

In Botswana:

• Alexander Matheou, regional representative, IFRC southern Africa Mobile: +267 71 39 53 40, E-mail: alexander.matheou@ifrc.org

• Hanna Butler, regional communications officer, IFRC southern Africa Mobile: +267 71 30 58 79, E-mail: hanna.butler@ifrc.org

In Addis Ababa:

• Katherine Mueller, communications manager, IFRC Africa Mobile: +251 930 03 3413, E-mail: katherine.mueller@ifrc.org