Zimbabwe Hunger Alert

Posted by: | Posted on: July 31, 2008

Zimbabwe, which has normally been a food surplus country, has seen a sharp deterioration in its food security due to a combination of factors: erratic rainfall; a steep economic downturn combined with an equally sharp rise in staple food prices; the negative impact of the government’s land reform programme; and the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The longest dry spell in 20 years has made the food situation especially dire; this is compounded by the huge fall in maize production by commercial farmers, whose yield is normally five times greater than that of small landholders.

The scale of the needs in Zimbabwe during the last year was staggering. In March alone WFP distributed 60,000 metric tons of food aid to 4.7 million Zimbabweans.

Continuing hyperinflation and widespread job losses in agriculture and related industries are rendering large groups of people highly vulnerable.

An overwhelming 33 percent of the adult population is infected with HIV/AIDS. Thousands die each month from the disease. Maintaining proper nutrition is essential to delaying the onset of AIDS and keeping people productive, but the prevailing food shortages have made this very difficult. The pandemic has created a large number of orphans, who are being raised by elderly grandparents. HIV/AIDS is depleting the agricultural workforce, which in turn makes it harder for Zimbabwe to produce enough to feed itself.

Traditionally, Zimbabwe exported large amounts of food due to a vibrant commercial farming sector. But the land reform programme has resulted in a huge drop in maize production. In part, this is because the average yield of subsistence farmers is much lower than that of their commercial counterparts. Moreover, the land reform programme was launched just when the dry spell began.

Continuing hyperinflation and high unemployment are rendering large groups of the urban poor highly vulnerable. Staple foods such as maize and wheat are scarce on the open market, but available at exorbitant prices on the parallel market.

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