Millions of drought-hit Zimbabweans face hunger

Up to 4.5 million people in Zimbabwe, a third of the population, have been left without enough food following one of the lowest rainfalls in 35 years. In some of the worst-hit parts of the country, between a half and two-thirds of households are going hungry.

Zimbabwe has been one of several southern African countries affected by the El Niño weather system that’s led to unusual weather patterns and 21 million people in need of food aid. Zimbabwe needs to fill a food gap of 380,000MT of maize.

Lives for rural families has been made worse by a critical lack of water in the major dams, absence of paid work and poor remittances from migrants to neighbouring countries also suffering from El Niño or poor economic growth.

Food insecurity has been worsening across rural Zimbabwe following harvest failures in March and April. November, December and January will be the worse months with supplies long gone and some people forced to survive on wild fruits, rodents and food aid.

Believe in miracles

“Only in a few pockets are there any crops. Everywhere else there is nothing,” said Bishop José Alberto Serrano of Hwange, one of the worst hit areas. “If you don’t believe in miracles, come to Zimbabwe. It’s hard to know how people cope otherwise.”

Poor families are switching to coping strategies like migration, prostitution, illegal mining and selling off household assets, like animals. These can cause irreversible damage.

The government launched an international appeal earlier this year, but have only received half the necessary funding. Caritas Internationalis itself launched a €1.3 million appeal for Zimbabwe, but only 42 percent of the programme is funded. “Without international aid, the situation will be serious,” said Bishop Serrano.

The appeal supports a school feeding programme and mobile phone cash transfers to vulnerable rural families.

At present in Hwange diocese, Caritas ensures 4800 students across seven schools get at least one meal a day. “Our biggest challenge is finding the necessary funds. The seven schools we support are very lucky. The needs are much greater,” said Edmond Sibanda of local diocesan Caritas in Hwange.

In another hard-hit region called Gokwe, Caritas planned to reach 7,000 out of the 21,000 people in need there locally with cash transfers to cover food costs for a month. “With what we have we can reach 300 people in Gokwe,” said Jephas Tichapondwa, a local staff member.

Caritas is appealing for additional funding of $700,000 so it can implement its emergency programme for Zimbabwe for 22,000 people in dire need.