BY VANESSA GUZHA
The European Union (EU) has availed €3 million to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to support highly vulnerable people in the country’s urban communities who are struggling to put food on the table due to the effects of COVID-19.
The beneficiaries will receive US$12 each per month through either vouchers or Western Union cash transfers so that they can buy basic food items such as maize meal, cooking oil and salt.
“Our assistance can never cover all those in need, only sound public social policies and sustainable economic growth based on political and economic reforms can,” Tomo Olkkonen, the EU ambassador to Zimbabwe said.
“At the EU, we are committed to working with partners like WFP to bring life-saving assistance to vulnerable populations, most of whom are struggling to make ends meet in these challenging times.”
Last year, the WFP estimated that over seven million Zimbabweans were in desperate need of food aid, including those in urban communities.
WFP Zimbabwe country director Francesca Erdelmann said COVID-19-induced impacts had further worsened the food situation in the country. Urban Livelihoods Assessment estimated that about 2,4 million urban dwellers were food insecure.
“Urban populations face high costs to obtain basic food needs, along with other critical items such as rent, water and electricity,” Erdelmann said, adding: “We are seeing a 30% increase in the average price (in ZWL) of basic food items (maize meal, maize grain, and sugar beans) in the first half of 2021 (Jan-Jun), when compared with the second half of 2020.”
He said: “Cash assistance can help to ease the burden for households, providing people with greater autonomy when planning monthly expenses.”
In March 2021, a report by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee showed that the country had experienced an increase in the number of food insecure households due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over US$88 million is needed to support the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country and WFP is targeting to support half a million people in urban areas by the end of the year.