Covid-19 heightened starvation among families – report

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

THE proportion of rural households having to skip a meal at least once in a day past 30 days was almost 4 times higher in July 2020 compared to the April-May 2019 period.

This is contained in the latest ZimStats report titled ‘Monitoring Covid-19 Impact on Households in Zimbabwe’, with Covid-19 cash transfers only reaching two percent of households in both rural and urban areas combined.

“In urban areas, this proportion rose three-fold to about 16 percent,” the report states.

“Four out of five rural respondents indicated they were unable to eat healthy or nutritious meals or their preferred food at least once during the 30 days before the interview.

“Although the urban proportion that gave this answer was slightly lower (71 percent), between April-May 2019 and July 2020 it increased proportionally more than in rural areas.

“The food security situation was reported for July 2020 just after completion of the harvest, which means that this trend is likely to worsen in subsequent months of 2020.”

ZIMSTATS added, “Coverage of social assistance programmes in Zimbabwe was low and had declined since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Food aid had the highest coverage with 15 percent of all households indicating they benefited from emergency food relief.

“This proportion was lower than before the outbreak of the pandemic when 19 percent of households indicated they had benefited from the programme.

“Covid-19 cash transfers only reached two percent of households (rural and urban combined).”

The food security situation in Zimbabwe was worsening even before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the report, two consecutive poor rainfall seasons, rapid inflation, and cash shortages undermined people’s capability to access food.

Based on ZIMVAC surveys, government estimated that the number of food insecure people in Zimbabwe was set to increase to more than 50 percent of the population or about 7.7 million in the 2020 lean season.

The Rapid PICES telephone survey did not allow for a complete set of questions on food consumption and food security.

However, several questions were asked and the results are concerning.

“More than one-third of survey respondents in rural areas reported that in the 30 days before the July 2020 interview, they had gone without a meal for a full day, at least once,” the report said.

“This proportion was one-sixth among urban respondents.

“More than half of urban households and two thirds of rural respondents had to skip meals because of lack of resources to obtain food.

“The extreme poor are more affected than the non-poor.”

The survey builds on the Poverty, Income, Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (PICES) of 2017 and 2019 and uses a sample of 1747 households from all ten provinces of Zimbabwe.