Calls for scaling-up response to the worsening drought intensify  

A multi-stakeholders meeting, jointly hosted by the Office of the President and Cabinet and the UN System in Zimbabwe, on Wednesday called for scaling up of humanitarian assistance to address the immediate drought-affected people.

Addressing over 170 senior representatives from Government; Diplomatic Corps; Development and Humanitarian Partners; Civil Society Organizations; Non-Governmental Organizations and Private Sector;  UN Resident  Coordinator, Bishow Parajuli said drought conditions in many parts of the country have been unprecedented and have severely increased the vulnerability of the poor depriving  livelihoods which includes livestock and agricultural production as well as access to water, nutrition, health and education services.

“Like many parts of Southern Africa region, Zimbabwe has been hard-hit by the effects of El Nino, with harvests devastated.

“The current rainfall season has so far been the driest in the last 35 years rendering over 28 million people food-insecure in the region,” said Parajuli.

Parajuli said the late onset of rains in Zimbabwe apparently reported to be below normal, coupled with higher than average temperatures, has severely affected the prospect of 2015/2016 crop production, livestock and rural livelihoods.

Speaking at the same occasion Deputy Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Rtd Col Christian Katsande said Government has declared a state of national emergency with effect from 3 February 2016.

Katsande said the national declaration of emergency allowed for the establishment of a standing Cabinet Committee on emergency response chaired by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

He added, the Cabinet Committee has been mandated to coordinate responses and programmes which include food importation and related logistics; social protection; emergency safe water supply, under five nutrition and school meal programme; emergency irrigation rehabilitation and production; livestock support and destocking; wild life relief as well as emergency rural roads repair and maintenance for improved accessibility.

Reiterating the Government’s commitment and leadership on the ongoing concerted joint efforts to tackle  the effects the drought, Col Katsande called on the UN and humanitarian partners to scale-up their responses to address the increasing immediate needs of the affected population in the areas of: agriculture; food; health; water, sanitation and hygiene; nutrition; child protection; and education.

“In addition to the looming food insecurity, during the past months, livestock condition and consequently livestock prices have decreased significantly in some parts as a result of poor grazing and water shortages. The highest livestock deaths recorded due to drought is in Masvingo province with 12,373 animals reported dead (50% of reported national deaths).

“The drought has also impacted negatively on water supplies. Water availability for domestic use is inadequate.

“Nationally, 81% of households reported unavailability of water for agricultural purposes (irrigation schemes and gardens). Masvingo province reported the highest levels (90%) of inadequate water for agriculture, “said Katsande.

RTD Col Katsande said the eroded productive capacity of vulnerable farming households and the increased food prices have resulted in higher rates of malnutrition especially in the most food insecure districts.

Statistics revealed 99,243 children under the age of 5, are estimated to be acutely malnourished.

The Severely Acute Malnutrition rate of 2.1%, up from 1.5% the previous year, is likely to increase in 2016.

Some children’s education will be adversely affected by the food shortages: For example, an estimated 6,000 children in Matabeleland North are skipping classes, citing hunger and the need to help out with house or farm work.

In some of the worst affected districts, the impact of the drought is reflected in declining school attendance and concentration levels.  Therefore, the main priority at this stage is to ensure children remain in school and continue to learn. The introduction of school meals would go a long way in alleviating the situation.

In response to the prevailing severe drought, the UN agencies – with support from development partners and in cooperation with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – have reached more than 1 million affected people with US$76 million in funding from partners, including US/USAID, UK/DFID, EU/ECHO and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.

The UN and humanitarian partners have prepared a revised Humanitarian Response Plan, which identifies the priority humanitarian needs of over $350 million, for the period April 2016 to March 2017. This is aimed at complementing national efforts to scale-up relief efforts to reach those who are most affected and vulnerable groups.

Meanwhile, the Government and the UN to scale-up relief efforts, Ambassador of China, Huang Ping announced that the Government of China will provide rice worth $24.6 million. In addition, USAID Director in Zimbabwe, Stephanie Funk informed the meeting that the US Government has, thus far, committed $40 million and announced that the support will be substantially increased in the coming period. Moreover, the European Union, the Government of Brazil and UK-AID confirmed their further commitment to the ongoing humanitarian response.