Zimbabwe, DRC among world’s worst for starvation – future is grim

Food distribution in the Mutoko rural area of Zimbabwe in March.Credit...Jekesai Njikizana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Acute food insecurity in Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is highlighted in a Global Food Crisis Report Forecast issued on Tuesday.

An estimated 4.3-million rural Zimbabweans, including children, are in need of urgent action, states the joint report released by the European Union, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN (FAO) , the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the UN Children’s Fund, USAid and the World Food Programme (WFP), which anticipates a worsening food insecurity situation in Zimbabwe this year.

On top of environmental factors, the report states the food crisis in Zimbabwe is caused by the current economic crisis which includes hyperinflation, shortages of currency and fuel, prolonged power outages, widespread poverty, HIV/Aids, and low agricultural output.

“Millions of Zimbabweans are already struggling, having suffered prolonged drought and economic hardship for some time. It is imperative that we unite to fight the Covid-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe and provide urgent food assistance safely to prevent an already vulnerable population from slipping deeper into hunger,” said WFP country director and representative Eddie Rowe.

More than half the children experiencing malnutrition are living in countries affected by the food crisis. The report says 75-million children worldwide are stunted and 17-million are wasted.

Zimbabwe is one of 10 countries where fewer than 20% of children between the ages of six and 23 months received a minimally adequate diet, further compromising their lifelong quality of life.

Zimbabwe’s Multi Indicator Cluster Survey 2019 revealed about one in four children under five were stunted and at risk of impaired physical and cognitive growth.

FAO representative Jocelyn Brown Hall cautioned: “Measures to curb the further spread of Covid-19 have the potential to impact negatively on the food system in Zimbabwe, such as through restricted access to markets by both farmers and consumers, and a glut of perishable nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables. Deliberate measures are needed to prevent and mitigate against these.”

According to the report, around 3.4-million children under five are acutely malnourished in the DRC, which was one of the world’s worst food crises in 2019. It has experienced decades of armed conflict and displacement coupled with very high poverty, weak political and economic governance, bad roads, lack of electricity, poor health, water and sanitation services, low agriculture productivity, and limited access to cultivable land, the report states.

Globally, the report states, in 2019, 135-million people across 55 countries and territories experienced acute food insecurity. These same countries’ food systems are highly vulnerable to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which will result in compromised health due to hunger, which can increase the risks of exposure to the virus.