US$2 billion drought response to foster resilience

Source: US$2 billion drought response to foster resilience | Sunday Mail

Sunday Mail Reporter

THE Government has developed a comprehensive drought response and mitigation plan covering enhanced social protection, direct cash transfers to affected households and school fees cover for vulnerable children, among other sweeping interventions that require a cumulative US$2 billion.

The plan was recently approved by Cabinet following the declaration of a State of Disaster by President Mnangagwa in response to the El Niño-induced drought.

It outlines a broad strategy to support vulnerable households while also building resilience for future shocks.

The plan also covers interventions geared towards protecting livestock and wildlife, as well as provision of psychosocial support for those affected by the drought.

Overall, the strategy seeks to go beyond providing immediate relief by fostering long-term resilience, including equipping Zimbabwe to better handle future climate shocks and emerge from the drought in a stronger position, hence the quantum of resources required.

The 2024 Response Plan to Food Insecurity, which was prepared by Ministers July Moyo (Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare) and Dr Anxious Masuka (Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development), details key interventions that include targeted programmes to assist vulnerable households with essential needs.

It also outlines a direct financial assistance programme to be provided to those most affected by the drought.

In addition, through enhanced grain procurement and distribution, the Government will ensure sufficient food reserves are available for distribution to communities facing food shortages.

Vulnerable children, on the other hand, will be supported to continue their education despite the drought’s impact on household income.

Measures will also be taken to safeguard livestock and wildlife during the drought, while also recognising the emotional toll of drought through provision for mental health support for affected communities.

Interventions will cover areas spanning agriculture, food assistance, education, water, sanitation and hygiene, and protection of wildlife.

“Distribution of grain shall be done using the existing structures through the Drought Relief Committees at all levels, including those done by NGOs (non-governmental organisations) to avoid miscommunication,” reads the plan.

“Each beneficiary in the rural provinces will get 7,5kg of grain and this will be reviewed to 8,5kg, starting September 2024.”

It continues: “Regarding children in schools, the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) will ensure no child drops out of school and the current reach of 1,5 million will be reviewed upwards to cover all children in need.

“School feeding programmes will be scaled up.”

The Government will also provide mental health and psychosocial support to children and families in drought-affected areas using a multi-sectoral approach.

“There is a high risk of individuals resorting to negative coping mechanisms to cope with hunger and this may be in the form of drug and substance abuse, given that with some drugs and substances, one can go for days without eating any food,” it continues.

“Drug and substance abuse survivors will be linked to other social protection services such as food assistance, cash transfer, public works programmes, sustainable livelihoods, empowerment programmes, skills training and counselling, among others.”

Able-bodied beneficiaries will be onboarded to public works programmes aimed at building community infrastructure and assets that include weirs, clinics, schools, roads and dip tanks.

In total, about US$707 696 000 will go towards grain procurement, transportation and distribution.

“The Zunde RaMambo/Isiphala SeNkosi programme will be decentralised to chiefs in all eight rural provinces.

“Under this arrangement, each chief will be allocated five tonnes of grain per ward, under their respective jurisdictions and working together with their headman, they will ensure there is grain available close to the people as much as possible to cater for all in dire need of assistance.”

The Government will meet all the costs of transporting the grain.

Overall, the Government intends to build resilience and do away with the dependency syndrome.

“As such, the policy position of using the Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme as a pre-qualification for getting food assistance should be upheld at the start of the 2024/2025 production season, starting September 2024.”

President Mnangagwa, the plan reads, has since approved a Blitz Food Distribution Programme.

“The blitz will target the most vulnerable groups, who include the elderly, persons with disabilities, orphaned and child-headed households, the chronically ill, among others.”

Registration of beneficiaries is ongoing.