By Dumisani Nyoni
Bulawayo, March 21, 2016 – THE drought situation in Matabeleland North’s Binga district remains dire amid calls for urgent intervention and increased humanitarian assistance.
UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP resident representative, Bishow Parajuli said at a press briefing in Bulawayo on Saturday farmers in the area had lost their harvest.
The briefing followed a two-day field visit to the province to raise awareness on the seriousness of El Nino induced drought.
“In Binga, the delegation observed that the situation is dire and the gravity of the drought severely affected and fishing communities,” Parajuli said.
“The farming communities have lost their harvest to drought and had no chance of replanting.
“The situation in Binga district calls for an increased and continued humanitarian assistance, including food, nutrition, school meal, animal feed and water.”
The call by Parajuli follows media reports that pupils at some schools in the region have stopped going to school while others were collapsing in class because of hunger.
The worst affected areas include Binga, Tsholotsho, Nkayi and Lupane.
Parents in Binga have called on the government to introduce school feeding schemes to help keep their children in schools.
However, as a going concern, the Democratic Republic of Congo ambassador to Zimbabwe, Mawampanga Mwana Nanga, said people in rural areas needed to be educated of farming and health issues.
“I used to work with a group of women in my village and when I go there and they need to work as a community, sometimes they complain that some of us are having children every year. If you have a child every year, how can you work?” he queried.
“So when you come to work, those who have too many babies they would be just seated to baby sit their babies and not working. So we need family planning so that they can space the babies and have time to work.”
The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Survey released last month said nearly 2,8 million people in rural Zimbabwe (30% of the rural population) will require food assistance, of which 1,4 million are children aged 18 years and below.
With that in mind, Southern African Development Community (Sadc) member States have declared this year’s El-Nino-induced drought a regional disaster, paving the way for donor agencies to assist in mobilising food aid for the estimated 30 million people facing hunger.
In a joint statement Friday, several donor agencies operating in the region said essential life-saving crops have failed after at least two consecutive bad harvests, driven this year by a ‘super’ El Nino, which has resulted in erratic, unpredictable weather, reduced or no rainfall in many areas, and flash flooding in others.
The visit led by Parajuli and comprised of officials from the Office of the President and cabinet, the UN agencies, FAO and Diplomatic Corps among others, also visited Bubi and Lupane districts.
In Lupane, the delegation observed that despite the late onset and patchy rainfall, farmers have been tackling the drought by replanting three to four times.
“The farming households, under the guidance of the Lupane have been destocking without losing their asset base or devaluing their livestock from cattle to goats to cope with the persistent dry spell.
“This has showcased the ingenuity and resilience of the local administration and the affected population,” Parajuli said.
Parajuli said to date, the UN agencies—with support from development partners and in cooperation with non-governmental organisations—have reached more than 1 million affected people and generated $76 million in funding from partners, including US/USAID, UK/DFID, EU/ECHO, Canada, Switzerland and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.
He said following the government’s declaration of State of Disaster last month and the updated ZimVAC report of recent weeks, the UN and its humanitarian partners have been further refining the joint humanitarian response plan so as to address needs in areas such as agriculture, food, health, health, water, sanitation and hygiene response, nutrition, child protection, child protection and education
As part of the on-going development in the districts, UNDP together with the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprise and Cooperative is supporting Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies.