January to March is traditionally the peak hunger season in Zimbabwe. Drought and economic uncertainty are expected to make the 2013 hunger season particularly hard.
A man who only wanted to be identified as D. Sithole lives in the village of Nemamwa, in Masvingo Province, south of the country.
Sithole told VOA that the situation in his area is dire. Crops are failing, livestock are dying and food assistance is not making up the difference. He also alleges that grain assistance from the government has been politicized. Sithole and his neighbors are not alone.
Zimbabwe’s cabinet is revising upwards the number of people in the country who are likely to need food assistance from 1,6 million to 2 million.
The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC) had originally estimated that over 1.6 million people would be food insecure between January and March next year, the peak hunger months in the country.
The hardest hit areas are Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, and - most worryingly - the normally food secure Mashonaland Central Province.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper quotes Governor Titus Maluleke as saying in Masvingo alone, 400,000 and people require food assistance and farmers say another poor harvest is looming as rains have been erratic, at best.
The cash-strapped Harare government is appealing to the international community to help. The World Food Program (WFP) and its partners are planning to scale up operations to ensure vulnerable households have enough food to sustain themselves at least until the next harvest.
WFP Southern Africa’s deputy director Brenda Barton said in a statement that more than 3,5 million people in Southern Africa are in need of famine relief to get through one of the“harshest hunger seasons” in years.
Unfortunately, food assistance has been hampered by what Barton attributes to donor fatigue.
The agency has halved food rations to refugees living in camps in at least 4 African countries, citing insufficient funding.
Labour and Social Welfare Minister Paurina Mpariwa Gwanyanya told VOA that the government is very concerned about the current food situation.
Gwanyanya though took a swipe at Maluleka and Manicaland Governor Chris Mushowe for politicizing food aid.