At least 5.2 million Zimbabweans will face food shortages during the first quarter of next year as the country grapples with the worst drought in 25 years, the United Nations said on Thursday.
The Southern African country has a total population of 14.15 million as per 2013 population census.
The UN said of the Zimbabweans that would struggle to get food as a result of the El-Nino induced drought, 1.1 million were in urban areas.
The country’s UN resident coordinator, Bishow Parajuli, said funding for the drought response in Zimbabwe had been inadequate.
“As we approach the peak hunger period of the lean season, inadequate funding to the humanitarian response plan will not only curtail the ongoing relief efforts to increase assistance to the most vulnerable in the rural settlements and scale-up assistance in urban areas but also risks reversing the gains made in the development and humanitarian areas thus far,” Mr Parajul told a consultative meeting in Harare.
The UN said of only $212 million of the $352 million being sought under a humanitarian response plan covering the period April 2016 to March 2017 period had been secured.
According to Mr Parajul, the financial and ‘in kind relief support’ had seen the UN and non-governmental organisations reach about 1.7 million vulnerable people in over 42 districts with food, cash and agricultural inputs.
One of the major donors, United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) recently announced additional $43 million for drought relief efforts in Zimbabwe
“The additional support from DFID will provide mobile cash payments to 360,000 vulnerable people up until end of March 2017; cover the cost of screening of 160,000 children for malnutrition; and the cost of treatment for over 12,000 children,” DFID Zimbabwe head Annabel Gerry said.
Countries such as China, Brazil, India, United States, Netherlands, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland and Denmark have also contributed to the drought relief effort but Mr Parajul said the money still remained inadequate.
“Sectors such as water, hygiene, and sanitation; education; and protection remain severely underfunded, threatening the country’s hard-won development gains made in these areas over the years,” he said.
Zimbabwe has over the years struggled to feed its people after President Robert Mugabe embarked on a controversial land reform programme at the turn of the millennium that destroyed the country’s agriculture based economy.
Successive droughts have also hindered the agriculture sector’s recovery difficult, leaving the majority of the population dependent on food aid.