The World Food Program (WFP) says it will this month start distributing food in worst affected areas in Zimbabwe, beginning in Matabeleland North and Midlands, which are the two provinces identified by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, and plans to assist about 1.8 million people in 41 districts during the peak of the programme, which is January to March 2014.
This development follows indications that at least 2,2 million people in mostly drought-prone rural areas require food.
In a statement, WFP official Tomson Phiri told V-O-A the 2012/2013 growing season was worse than previous years. " Poor rainfall distribution affected even the traditional cereal surplus districts. There were late-starting rains, then flooding in some areas, with insufficient or expensive inputs such as fertiliser compounding the situation," he said.
Phiri added that recent WFP monitoring has found that many people have exhausted their personal stock and relying on buying cereal from the market, where grain prices are 23% higher than last year. He said job opportuniteis are scarce in the country and cash flow is a major challenge.
In related news, Steve Taravella, senior WFP spokesperson told V-O-A’s Kim Lewis Thursday, the UN agency has been awarded $81 million in food commodities from the U.S Department of Agriculture at a critical time for their school meals activities that are going on in developing countries, as poor households in many circumstances must choose between sending their children to school or sending them to work.
Taravella said a school meal is a strong incentive to send the child to school and for many it may be the only meal they receive that day. The beneficiaries include Kenya, Malawi, Liberia, and Cambodia.
Taravella added that the feeding scheme will likely assist in keeping the girl child at school as parents will realize that they will miss a meal if they keep them at home to help with family chores.
In Zimbabwe, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora on Thursday told senate that most children do not attend school because of hunger, and the government will implement feeding programs in schools.
The WFP agency’s program in Zimbabwe does not necessarily target children, but vulnerable families, which may include minors.
For perspective on the issue, VOA reached Reverend Useni Sibanda, former Christian Alliance director, who says the country should produce more food for its citizens instead of relying on frequent donations.