Effects of drought lingers in rural areas, aggravates urban vulnerability

 Displaying IMG_1939.jpgBarnabas Thondhlana

El Nino-induced drought has led to a serious surge in food insecurity and hunger affecting 40 million people across the southern Africa region.

Zimbabwe, one of the countries most affected, is in the midst of the worst drought in 25 years that is projected to affect 5.2 million people including 1.1 million urban dwellers during the first quarter of 2017.

Addressing some 150 participants at the 4th national multi-stakeholders consultative meeting jointly convened by the Office of the President and Cabinet and the UN System in Zimbabwe today in Harare, the UN Resident Coordinator Bishow Parajuli (pictured) said: “As we approach the peak hunger period of the lean season, inadequate funding to the humanitarian response plan will not only curtail the ongoing relief efforts to increase assistance to the most vulnerable in the rural settlements and scale-up assistance in urban areas but also risks reversing the gains made in the development and humanitarian areas thus far.”

Of the $352 million being sought under the Humanitarian Response Plan (April 2016-March 2017), nearly $212 million has been committed, with the current funding gap at $140 million. The committed financial and in kind relief support has allowed the UN and NGOs to reach approximately 1.7 million vulnerable people in over 42 districts with food, cash, agricultural inputs and other lifesaving relief assistance.

The committed resource includes the recently announced additional £40 million by DFID. Announcing the additional boost which brings the total contribution by the Government of the UK to £55.6 million, Annabel Gerry Head of DFID Zimbabwe said: “The additional support from DFID will provide mobile cash payments to 360,000 vulnerable people up until end of March 2017; cover the cost of screening of 160,000 children for malnutrition; and the cost of treatment for over 12,000 children.”

The ongoing relief response has also been made possible by the generous contributions from USAID, EU-ECHO, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland and Denmark. The BRICS nations and others have also supported the relief efforts, including bilateral contributions from China, India and Brazil.

Expressing deep gratitude and appreciation for the generous support from donors, the UN Resident Coordinator said: “Sectors such as water, hygiene, and sanitation; education; and protection remain severely underfunded, threatening the country’s hard-won development gains made in these areas over the years.”

The fourth national multi-stakeholder consultative meeting underlined the importance of the drought response to be consistently guided by the universal humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence.

Senior Principal Director, Office of the President and Cabinet, Mr. O. E. M. Hove said: “Government has made all efforts to import and set a buffer stock of maize to ensure that no citizen starves irrespective of one’s political or other affiliations.”

Mr. Hove appreciated the generous support from humanitarian and development partners that are complementing Government’s efforts in response to the prevailing humanitarian challenges and called on all partners to stay the course.

Noting the need to continue and increase joint response to the pressing effects of the worst drought, stakeholders agreed to recalibrate their efforts towards resilience-building, provision of quality social services and protection programmes to ensure strong linkages and eventual transition of those affected by drought to recovery, medium and long-term sustainable development.

Reiterating on the call to planning for the future with focus on building resilience, Mr. Hove said: “To this end, the Government of Zimbabwe is implementing a special programme to ensure food security targeting to produce at least two million metric tonnes of maize grain on 400,000ha of which 200,000ha will be irrigated.”

The national multi-stakeholders consultative meeting follows two successful Provincial Drought Response Consultative meetings held in Bulawayo and Harare at the end of September and beginning of November, respectively.

The provincial meetings allowed partners to adopt harmonized relief response approach across the Government, UN and NGOs managed assistance for improved targeting, registration, distribution, monitoring and accountability.

 

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