UN warns of starvation in Zimbabwe, calls for help

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By Anna Chibamu

THE United Nations has warned of possible starvation in drought stricken areas of Zimbabwe like Masvingo.

UN Resident Coordinator, Bishow Parajuli in a statement said stakeholders involved in aiding Cyclone Idai survivors should also focus on vulnerable drought-stricken communities to save people from starving.

Parajuli said this after a tour of Masvingo province recently, during which he observed first-hand the challenges communities affected by drought, are facing.

He also assessed the progress of the various ongoing UN programmes and projects. The tour was also meant to amplify the plight of drought affected communities, with the aim of increasing response to the Revised Humanitarian Flash Appeal launched early this month.

The Flash Appeal has requested for USD$294 million, to provide food assistance, health, education, social protection and agriculture inputs to 2.47 million people in most vulnerable districts to complement government efforts.

According to the UN local office, the response to revised Humanitarian Flash Appeal thus far stands at measly 15%.

Parajuli in the statement following the tour said his team noted with “serious concern a lack of critical medical supplies which stands at 50% at Masvingo Provincial Hospital due to the current economic challenges.”

“While the response to Cyclone Idai continues, the government, UN, development partners, NGOs and civil society as well as the private sector, must not lose focus in supporting vulnerable drought affected communities with the provision of social services, particularly in meeting the urgently needed critical medical supplies,building and strengthening resilience.

“The ongoing concerted drought relief, resilience and community asset building efforts by government, the UN, development partners, NGOs and communities have shown the way on the need to link humanitarian response and development programmes.

“There is need to scale up these interventions to ensure communities bounce back better and stronger in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development,” said Parajuli.

The local UN office boss appealed to friends of Zimbabwe, for continued support as the country moves towards economic and democratic reforms.

World Food Programme (WFP) representative in Zimbabwe Eddie Rowe said with proper support communities have shown they can break the cycle of hunger.

“The participation of 48 villages, the communities in Chebvute prioritised the construction of a weir dam, which has enabled them to harvest different crops, vegetables, raise poultry, cattle and goats.

“They have also established fish ponds with 10,000 fingerlings amidst the ravaging drought in the area. The community asset building programme has really demonstrated that communities can break the vicious cycle of recurrent droughts,” said Rowe.

The UN team revealed it had observed humanitarian and development projects in Masvingo and Chiredzi districts where communities are supported were yielding results.

Such projects the UN said, have assisted in resilience building, to cope with the prevailing drought through food distribution, nutrition, agriculture, with community asset building, livelihoods, health, water  and other social services playing critical role in lifesaving and sustaining livelihoods.

Besides Parajuli and Rowe the team also included Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) sub-regional Coordinator for Southern Africa and representative to Zimbabwe Alain Onibon; UNDP Resident Representative Georges Van Montfort; UNICEF Representative Leylee Moshiri; and WHO Representative Dr Alex Gasasira.

Villagers in south-eastern Zimbabwe were left reeling after a tropical storm ripped through Chimanimani and Chipinge districts killing almost 400 people and leaving over 40 000 facing starvation as well as without shelter.