Chronic malnutrition in Zim

JOHANNESBURG – Hunger and chronic malnutrition are on the rise in Zimbabwe, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has said.

The UN organisation said significant crop loses in four of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces would see the lean period setting in much earlier than usual in the affected provinces, a development it said could see nutrition levels further dropping especially among children and other vulnerable groups.

"Of particular concern at this time are reports of significant crop losses in the Masvingo, Manicaland, Matebeleland South and Midlands provinces of Zimbabwe," the UN organisation said at the weekend.

The OCHA said funding was well below needs but added that work to raise more resources was progressing well.

Meanwhile the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare is looking to complete by year-end drafting a three-year policy to tackle the food and nutrition strategy situation in the country.

The ministry is working in conjunction with the nutrition cluster of organisations in the country that include UN Children's Fund, International Organisation for Migration, Goal, World Vision, the World Food Programme and Plan International.

Beneficiaries of the nutrition cluster include 4.95 million children and women of reproductive age.

A UNICEF official Tobias Stillman said that the cluster had appealed for nearly US$15 million in humanitarian support for this year but has so far only received 14 percent of the requested funds.

News of rising malnutrition in Zimbabwe comes three weeks after the UN humanitarian coordinator in Harare, Alain Noudehou, and government officials jointly launched an appeal for $488 million in humanitarian support for the southern African nation.

Launching the appeal Noudehou said the country had not achieved its desired food security levels after a mid-season drought destroyed crops in southern and south-western Zimbabwe.

Nearly 1.7 million Zimbabweans need food assistance this year, according to the UN.

Zimbabwe is a former major regional agricultural producer but the troubled southern African state has struggled to feed itself since President Robert Mugabe embarked on his controversial drive to seize white-owned commercial farms in 2000, which knocked farming production.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti said last month in a mid-term budget review that Zimbabwe's production of maize grain would rise this year to 1.45 million tonnes from 1.32 million tonnes last year. Maize is Zimbabwe is main staple food and the country requires about two million tonnes of the grain per year. -- ZimOnline