By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
15 January 2014
More Zimbabweans are facing serious hunger this year, after the United Nations (UN) food agency announced it was cutting the number of people it assists with aid.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) said Tuesday that it has cut rations to a million Zimbabweans, and more cuts could be coming this year.
The WFP announced last year that one in four of Zimbabwe’s rural population is expected to need food assistance in 2014, saying this “is the highest since early 2009 when more than half the population required food support.”
The UN group said that the high levels of food insecurity are attributed to various factors including adverse weather conditions, the unavailability and high cost of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilisers and projected high cereal prices due to the poor maize harvest.
“We’d been hoping to have scaled up our seasonal relief operations to reach 1.8 million people in the coming months with distributions of food and, in some areas, cash transfers. Despite generous contributions from donors such as USA, UK, Canada, Japan, Australia, ECHO and the Central Emergency Relief Fund, it’s now looking like all this will not be possible because of a shortage of funds,” said Tomson Phiri, the WFP’s Zimbabwe communications officer in an email.
He added: “We’ve had to cut rations for one million of our beneficiaries in recent months and there are likely to be deeper cuts as from next month.”
Phiri said that rising food process had made the problem worse, saying some prices have almost doubled since last year.
“WFP currently needs $60 million to fully implement its relief and recovery operations in the next six months. Of course, we’ll do everything we can to prioritise the needs of the most vulnerable but there are many whom we might not be able to help,” Phiri said.