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Hunger is on the rise in Zimbabwe with an estimated 2.2 million people needing food assistance by the pre-harvest period from October 2013 to March 2014, reported the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on September 3. This predicted amount of hunger in Zimbabwe would be the highest level since early 2009 when more than 50 percent of the entire population needed food aid.

This fact may be alarming as one often hears that there is progress being made in solving world hunger and hopefully meeting the first MDG, which is eradicating poverty and hunger. In some cases, that is true. In fact, according to the Food Assistance Organization (FAO), the percentage of the global population that suffers from hunger dropped from 18.6 percent in the early 1990s to 12.5 percent in 2010-2012.

However, the progress is not uniform all over the world. Mainly Southeast and East Asia have seen remarkable achievements in decreasing hunger, but the problem is much more severe in sub-Saharan Africa, where hunger has increased by 2 percent each year. Such is the case for Zimbabwe; where the 2.2 million people projected not able to provide for themselves starting in October, make up 25 percent of the rural population.

Factors that have caused the rising level of food insecurity in the Zimbabwe include inconsistent rainfall, increasing costs of agricultural products such as fertilizers and seeds, as well as the rising costs of food such as grains due to the unsuccessful maize harvest. Food prices are also expected to increase even more as the amount of commodities decreases. Moreover, with the 70 percent unemployment rate in Zimbabwe, many people cannot cope with increasing food prices.

Dubbed by experts as what will be the “worst hunger season in years,” the WFP will begin supplying cereal, beans, and oil in October to help families vulnerable to the food crisis maintain their livelihoods. Additionally, the WFP will also facilitate cash transfers so that people will be able to purchase cereal and grains from local markets.

The WFP also began helping Zimbabwe’s growing food crisis as early as June by establishing a Cash/Food for Assets program in rural areas, in which poorer communities can receive food or money by participating in the construction of community irrigation systems and wells.

The government of Zimbabwe has also taken action towards the hunger problem in Zimbabwe for the first time. In fact, it provided $10 million in grain to a relief operation headed by the WFP and its partners, which ultimately contributed food aid to about 1.4 million people in 37 rural areas.

Elisha-Kim Desmangles

Sources: News 24, US News Centre, WFP, Thomas Reuters Foundation