THE number of people needing food assistance in Zimbabwe has more than doubled from a projected 1.5 million to between 3 and 4 million people, the country’s Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Priscah Mupfumira revealed this week.
Mupfumira told reporters in Harare that the country was now looking at importing 700 000 tonnes of maize to augment the available grain, which she said would only last the next two and a half
“We have been distributing about 30 tonnes of grain per month from our own resources as government. We also have partners such as the UNFP who will also be doing their part distributing
grain, but also because of their resourcing capacity and capability, they have been able to do extras such as oils and even a little bit of cash to the affected households,” she said.
She said the importation programmes had already been put in place to ensure the country did not run out of the staple food.
“The drought has been made worse by the fact that the previous year we also had a poor agricultural season, so when we did our assessment for people who might need assistance, this year
we were targeting about 1.5 million people, or 300 000 households. Unfortunately as we progressed, the situation became worse and as I speak now, the households have doubled to more than 600 000 which require food assistance, or over three million people, but the estimates could be four million,” she said.
Mupfumira said even people who were ordinarily not in the vulnerable groups category had now been included as most people normally could be feeding from their own harvests, but could not do that now because of poor rainfall.
“I think at the moment it has affected everyone because most Zimbabweans have rural homes and normally when the rural homes have adequate food it would be given to families in the urban
areas,” she said.
Mupfumira said the government would, starting the beginning of the second school term next month, embark on a school feeding programme for young pupils from the Zero Grade to Grade One.
“We have had reports of absenteeism, pupils coming late or fainting at school and we, as a government, resolved that with effect from next term, that’s next month, we have to embark on this
feeding programme over and above the normal distribution which we are doing,” she said.
She said government was now also rolling out the food for work programme where able bodied but needy Zimbabweans would work on community projects and be paid in the form of grain.
“Those who can work have identified in their communities projects like repairing bridges, schools, clinics, roads and irrigation; so these people are given food based on working.”
Mupfumira dismissed reports of politicisation of food aid as nonsense, saying government gave food aid to all deserving persons regardless of their political affiliation.
“Our own ministry is involved in the actual distribution from village level, ward level, district level and provincial level. We have so many people involved and there is nowhere where it is said produce your party card first before you are given food. There is nothing like that,” she said.
She said those found demanding political party cards from beneficiaries of food aid would be dealt with accordingly.
“If you hear about that, give us the examples and we will follow through. We have many people who have been short-changing villagers, charging them between $2.50 and $5.00 to have their bags of maize ferried and we have dealt with some of the people, even having some arrested. As you are aware, as government we don’t have adequate resources so we ask some people to assist and some of them have been doing that and as government we have taken action against such people.
“In my own area where I come from, the councillor was jailed 18 months for stealing maize,” she added.