- World Food Programme (WFP) has today appealed for US$140 million to provide vital relief rations over next six months, to feed more than five million Zimbabweans facing severe food shortages. Without additional contributions, WFP warned it will run out of stocks in January - at the very peak of the crisis.
"Millions of Zimbabweans have already run out of food or are surviving on just one meal a day - and the crisis is going to get much worse in the coming months," said Mustapha Darboe, WFP Regional Director for East, Central and Southern Africa. "WFP can prevent this crisis from becoming a disaster but we need more donations – and we need them now."
According to FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, more than 2 million people are already in need of assistance. This figure is expected to rise to 5.1 million - or 45 percent of the population - in early 2009.
The situation is already critical in many rural areas according to UN agency, saying in particularly southern districts are worst affected. Reports show that a large number of Zimbabwean farmers harvested little - if anything - this year and have now exhausted their meagre stocks. Many hungry families are reportedly living on one meal a day, even going to extremes of exchanging precious livestock for buckets of maize or eating wild foods such as baobab and amarula.
Delayed by government’s three-month suspension of most NGO field activities, WFP and its NGO partners began distributing monthly emergency rations under large-scale vulnerable group feeding programme at the start of October, targeting rural communities worst affected by this year’s poor harvest.
According to reports, tens of thousands of beneficiaries have already received life-saving food assistance under this programme over past week and WFP hopes to reach 1.8 million by end of month. Plans are to scale up operations to around 3.3 million in first three months of 2009 before the main cereal harvest begins in April.
In addition, WFP is targeting around 800,000 people each month under its separate safety-net programmes - taking its overall caseload to around 2.5 million in October and more than 4 million in first three months of 2009.
WFP has said in a report that given nature of food shortages, there is need to expand its relief programme to 37 districts - five more than in previous years. WFP will also enhance nutritional quality of its food basket by adding corn-soya blend to its basic mix of cereals, pulses and vegetable oil to help prevent malnutrition rates from rising. In Zimbabwe, 28 percent of children under five are already chronically malnourished, according to reports.
To boost its logistics operation, WFP says it has opened a new transhipment point in central town of Gweru and a new warehouse in South African border town of Musina, which has capacity to bag 50,000 tons of food over next six months.
But these plans are all subject to sufficient donations arriving in time said WFP, adding that currently, agency faces a shortfall of over 145,000 metric tons of food, including 110,000 tons of cereals. Without extra donations, WFP will run out of supplies in January - just as needs are peaking, agency explained.
"Our donors have been extraordinarily generous over past six years, but the food crisis is far from over. We are urging them to dig deep once again," said Mr Darboe, adding that cash donations will allow WFP to purchase crucial commodities regionally.
In addition to WFP’s beneficiaries, a group of US-sponsored NGOs known as C-SAFE also plans to provide food to over 1 million Zimbabweans in districts not covered by WFP. With these two humanitarian pipelines, food assistance should reach around 5 million people at the peak of the crisis.
While WFP has received almost US$175 million so far in 2008, another US$140 million is urgently needed to fund WFP’s huge emergency operation until April 2009, agency said.
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