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World Vision Says Devastating Drought Haunting Zimbabwe

FILE: Villagers collect their monthly food ration provided by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Masvingo, Zimbabwe.

World Vision has called for more funding to address food shortages in Southern Africa as Zimbabwe says more than a third of the country's population faces the worst drought in two decades.

In a statement, Beatrice Mwangi, the World Vision Southern Africa region resilience and livelihoods director, said thousands of children in Zimbabwe and across Southern Africa are slipping into malnutrition and death.

Mwangi said many are not going to school due to hunger and this represents a big loss to the communities and countries across the region.

Mwangi added that if there is no positive response in funding, more children are expected to be malnourished while some may die.

An El Nino induced-drought has hit Zimbabwe hard and last month it appealed for $1.6 billion in aid to help pay for grain and other food. The government of the southern African country this week admitted that the number of people requiring food aid has risen to 4 million, up from 3 million initially projected at the beginning of February when President Robert Mugabe declared a “state of disaster” due to drought.

The U.N.'s children's agency, UNICEF, said recently that Zimbabwe is facing its worst malnutrition rates in 15 years due partly to drought caused by the El Nino phenomenon.

According to UNICEF, 33,000 children in Zimbabwe — mostly aged one to 2 years old — need urgent treatment for "severe acute malnutrition.”

Mwangi said, “The increase to the estimated 4 million is as a result of the end of support by the development partners who had secured funding for the lean period between December and March. However, the shortages are still severe and are likely to go beyond the current cropping season. The response to this current crisis from a donor-perspective has been a bit slow.

“There is still a huge funding shortfall in terms of resources that are required and we all know that a delayed response usually leads to spending more money trying to rectify the emergencies. We also know that many children across Southern Africa have high levels of stunted growth due to poor diets and food shortages meaning this crisis may in future lead to us seeing a generation that is unable to perform to its fullest potential. It’s like losing an entire generation.”

Stocks of maize - the staple food - were 91,326 tonnes as of March 10 - enough to last only three months. The end of funding support by the Zimbabwean government’s development partners, who had secured funds for the country, has been attributed as the cause for the rise in the number of people needing food.

Zimbabwe has also seen harvests devastated and food prices soar with the WFP reporting that food production has halved compared to last year and maize is 53% more expensive.

World Vision has been providing villagers in rural Zimbabwe with cash vouchers, and food aid while the charity’s flagship Improving Girls’ Access through Transforming Education (IGATE) is supporting over 100 000 marginalised girls from over 460 schools located in four provinces in Zimbabwe.