Zimbabwe appeals for $2 billion to avert food insecurity

Harare, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe appealed to the United Nations, aid agencies and individuals on Wednesday for $2 billion to avert food insecurity caused by an El Nino-induced drought.

At the State House in Harare, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a nationwide state of disaster. He told reporters that Zimbabwe is expecting a harvest of 868,000 metric tons of grain this year — far short of expectations and about 680,000 tons less than the country needs.

“Preliminary assessment shows that Zimbabwe requires in excess of $2 billion toward various interventions we envisage in the spectrum of our national response,” he said.

Zimbabwe isn’t alone. Malawi and Zambia declared a state of disaster earlier this year due to the drought.

Edward Kallon, U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator in Zimbabwe, said the world body is monitoring the severe impact of the ongoing dry spell in southern Africa. He said the crisis has far-reaching consequences across various sectors, including food and nutrition security, health, water resources, education and jobs.

So far, Kallon said, the U.N. has allocated $5 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund for needs such as water, hygiene, sanitation, food and medical response to a cholera outbreak.

“The U.N. pledges its support to the government of Zimbabwe in mobilizing resources to tackle the El Nino-induced drought,” he said. “Efforts are underway to finalize a response plan.”

Paul Zakariya, executive director of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, said that while nothing can be done to stop climate change effects, irrigation farming is one of the methods that can be used to mitigate calamity.

“Only depending on rain-fed agriculture, we will not go too far,” Zakariya said.

The government should ensure that even farmers with small amounts of land can irrigate, he said.

“With irrigation, our farmers are producing all year round,” he said.

Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of southern Africa, has largely depended on handouts from organizations such as the World Food Program and the U.S. Agency for International Development in the last 20-plus years.

The government attributes the food shortages to recurring droughts.

Critics attribute the problem to the confiscation of land from white commercial farmers who produced crops all year round. They were replaced with peasant farmers who let irrigation systems fall into disrepair and are reliant on rain to grow their crops.

U.N. agencies said they will provide funding so Zimbabwe can revive the irrigation systems. Details are expected at a news conference on Thursday.

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