Overview of humanitarian situation
The year 2006 was greeted by a number of humanitarian challenges namely the cholera outbreak, an armyworm invasion, persistent shortages of agricultural inputs, lack of shelter for the people affected by the Clean-up Operation and the threat of floods. These challenges were in addition to the longstanding humanitarian priorities like food shortages, HIV and AIDS and the continued economic decline that has seen the rate of inflation rising to 585.8% coupled with scarce foreign currency available in the country. These humanitarian challenges are described below.
MVPs return to towns
Recent assessments show an increasing influx of mobile and vulnerable people (MVPs) into areas like Chipapa (Karoi), Trennance and Killarney (Bulawayo). They are reestablishing in locations from where they were removed during Operation Restore Order/Murambatsvina.
Concerned by the emerging needs, humanitarian actors are calling for the registration of these people to deliver humanitarian assistance to them. The influx is stretching the available resources.
On 11 January, WFP, through a cooperating partner, distributed 153 metric tons of food (cereals, pulses, and oil), to 2,400 households affected by Operation Murambatsiva in the Harare area after verification with the targeting criteria. In January, WFP will provide more than 1,000 metric tons of food to 37,800 people negatively impacted by Operation Murambastsvina.
Cholera outbreak Three separate outbreaks occurred in Harare, Chikomba and Buhera since early December 2005. According to the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, the outbreaks in the three areas had a total of 285 cholera cases from which 14 deaths were registered. However, the Combined Harare Residents' Associations claims that the death toll from the current cholera outbreak has risen to 40. The Ministry also reports that cumulative national figures since January 2005 stand at 516 cholera cases and 26 deaths.
OCHA produced maps showing the areas affected by the outbreak. As a member of the National Multi-sectoral Task Force that was established by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare in response to the cholera outbreak, UNICEF facilitated the design and production of flyers and accompanying posters, aimed at informing and educating the general public and members of the hospitality industry regarding identification of the disease, care of the infected and the role of good hygiene and sanitation practices in fighting the spread of the disease.
UNICEF is also providing technical support to the Social Mobilisation sub-committee of the taskforce in developing a communication-based strategy that is aimed at promoting effective short and long-term measures regarding cholera prevention and care amongst policy makers, implementing institutions and community members.
Immediately after the outbreak was reported on 28 November and 17 December, respectively, WHO was involved in the initial assessment to determine the magnitude of the outbreak and to identify gaps that needed to be filled to control the outbreak. Technical staff was deployed to give technical support in surveillance, community mobilization, infection control, temporary latrine construction and contact tracing.
The outbreak happens at a time when the country's health system and social services infrastructure are already overburdened. Drinking water and sewerage reticulation systems in cities and towns are collapsing and garbage continues to accumulate in most residential areas increasing the risk of disease outbreaks. The official national media does not meet the specifications of the Standards Association of Zimbabwe nor those of the World Health Organisation as it has high chemical concentrations and sedimentary impurities. In Bindura, the national broadcaster reported that residents of the mining town are drinking water that is laced with a vegetative stench.
The armyworm caterpillar attacked sprouting maize crops in Matebeleland South, Mashonaland East and Central provinces during mid-January. The Zimbabwe Farmers' Union lamented the shortage of foreign currency needed to import pesticides. The Agricultural Research and Extension Services (AREX) announced that the outbreak is now under control and has not caused a major effect to the food security of the country. However, farmers' unions fear that the shortages of inputs especially fertilizer will result in a poor harvest and the current good rains would not be put to the best use.
The government has indicated plans to takeover three fertilizer firms, Windmill, Zimbabwe Fertilizer Company and the fertilizer section of Sable Chemicals in an effort to guarantee availability of fertilizer. The three companies will be merged into a government controlled National Fertilizer Company of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe News reports that the nationalization of the three corporations would further scare away foreign investors.
The UN is continuing dialogue with the government and working with its partners to address the shelter needs of the people that lost their shelter during the Operation Murambatsvina/Restore Order of May to July 2005. The rolling out of the shelter programme that was planned to start with 2,500 temporary houses is yet to happen pending agreement with the government on the acceptable model of the shelter.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM), UN-Habitat, churches and NGOs are consulting on how best to continue providing shelter to the vulnerable individuals living in the open or those without adequate shelter.
The Daily Mirror on 9 January reported that new illegal shelters are sprouting in the Harare high-density suburbs of Dzivarasekwa, Mufakose, Mbare and Glen Norah as affected people return to the city.
Shortages of the staple maize grain and maize meal persisted into 2006, as people are in the middle of the season when traditionally most families would have exhausted food stocks from the previous seasons. WFP's Vulnerability and Mapping (VAM) Unit reported that, in December, 90 percent of community respondents reported that maize meal/ grain was not available or available with difficulty in their primary and secondary markets. Fifty two percent of community respondents also indicated that food aid was their primary source of maize.
In January 2006, WFP will provide food assistance to more than 4.3 million people under the Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) programme and targeted activities including school feeding, home-based care, support for orphans and vulnerable children, pregnant and lactating mothers, and people affected by Operation Murambatsvina. WFP plans to provide more than 37,000 Mt of food to 3.4 million people in 37 districts under the VGF programme. The VGF programme targets the most food insecure households in 37 districts (while an additional 13 districts are covered under a separate NGO food pipeline, using similar modalities), and is being implemented through 11 experienced NGO cooperating partners.
The VGF programme provides, on average, 10 kilogrammes of cereals and 2 kilogrammes of pulses per month to individuals with no or low assets ownership, fixed or temporary income, petty trading opportunities, and remittances. In addition, WFP prioritizes orphan, single parent, elderly, chronically ill, disabled-headed households, along with those with vulnerable household members, for food assistance.
Beginning this January WFP and its cooperating partners will begin feeding children at several schools in Bulawayo. The government has welcomed the urban school feeding programme as it is a source of good nutrition for the urban poor children, especially orphans and vulnerable children. The school feeding programme will benefit more than 547,000 children in 16 districts in January.
The country remains alert to the possibility of major floods as the Meteorological Services Department warns that an organized cloud system associated with the InterTropical Convergence Zone, currently concentrated in neighbouring Namibia, may continue to affect the country. Earlier in January, some incessant rains affected Gokwe, Lower Guruve and Tsholotsho. Floods caused by a rainfall pattern affecting Southern Africa have swept away over 26 people in Mozambique and are Prices of maize grain and maize meal in major urban and rural market centres went up by an average 13%. According to WFP figures, Marondera had the lowest increase of 4% while Mutare had the highest increase of 27%.
Following the temporary closure of Harare's Mbare market place to mitigate the spread of cholera, maize grain prices in Harare tumbled by 14% as traders had to make quick sales for cheaper prices. The graph and map presented here show the price trends in major cities and towns and the market distribution.
Acknowledgements: Data supplied by the United Nations World Food Programme
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