BY TATENDA SQUARE/BEAUTY NYUKE
APPROXIMATELY 2,4 million Zimbabweans in urban areas are struggling to meet their basic food needs, the latest report by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) has revealed.
In a statement yesterday, the World Food Programme (WFP) said the ZimVAC statistics showed that there has been a sharp decline this year in the standard of living in the country across urban communities, with 83% of urban households now below the cost of the minimum expected food items such as mealie meal, salt and cooking oil compared to 76,8% in 2019.
“The lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19 have dealt a severe blow to poor urban communities, many of whom were daily wage earners living hand to mouth. While unable to find work in cities, the ban on transport has meant that seasonal employment in rural areas is no longer an option,” WFP said.
“With work opportunities disappearing, the recent report states that 42% of urban households will not be able to meet their cereal requirements this year, compared to approximately 30% for the same period in 2019.”
The WFP said urban communities in Zimbabwe also faced challenges of increases in prices of basic commodities, while the purchasing power of the Zimbabwe dollar has been eroded by inflation and negative economic effects of COVID-19.
WFP country director Francesca Erdelmann said access to nutritious food had resulted in negative impacts for many in the country.
“Families will find it difficult to put food on the table. Most of them have been stuck at home and were not able to go to work, the fortunate ones will skip meals while those without will have to go to bed on empty stomachs. For the most vulnerable people, hunger will have a lasting effect on their lives. The deteriorating hunger situation, caused by COVID-19 threatens to be their biggest challenge,” she said.
Currently, the WFP is providing monthly cash transfers to 326 000 Zimbabweans across 23 urban areas, and aims to scale up the assistance to reach 550 000 people living in the 28 worst affected and food insecure areas in the country.