More Zimbabweans Face Starvation As La Niña Looms

By Johannes Chin’ombe

Masvingo, August 11, 2016 – ZIMBABWE’S food crisis is set to worsen early next year with the number of food insecure citizens set to double as the country braces for the La Niña disaster between January and March 2017, it has been reported.

According to the latest Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC)’s Rural Livelihood Assessment report, Masvingo province is set to be hit harder by the looming disaster with the forecaster saying the province is the second most vulnerable.

The report says the number of food-insecure people in the drought prone province will increase to over 700 000 during the next peak lean season between January and March 2017.

World Food Program (WFP) Assistant Donor Relations, Reports and Communications Officer; Tinashe Mubaira revealed that one in every two locals would be in need of food aid when the drought peaks, doubling figures of families in need of drought relief in the province.

“A general increase in the proportion of food insecure households is projected across all provinces when the 2016/17 consumption is compared to the previous two consumption years.

“Matabeleland (57%), Masvingo (50%) and the Midlands (48%) provinces are projected to have the highest proportions of food insecure households at peak hunger period. Mashonaland West is projected to have the least proportion of food insecure households at 23%.

“761 084 people in Manicaland and 738 people in Masvingo province are projected to have the highest number of people estimated have food insecurity during the peak period. This is a major rise in food shortage as compared to current trend of 389 063 and 419 033 people in need of food aid in Manicaland and Masvingo respectively,” Mubaira highlighted.

Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator, Bishow Parajuli, stressed that  findings of the 2016/2017 ZimVAC and the 43 per cent increase in the number of food insecure people will demand that they scale up humanitarian response efforts in the coming months.

Parajuli said with the increase in affected population and their needs, a significant funding gap remains.

He further noted that in addition to Food and Agriculture, there would be need to support Health and Nutrition; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene; Education; and Protection sectors, which are severely under-funded.

La Niña events sometimes follow the patterns of El Niño events, which occur at irregular intervals of about two to seven years.

The local effects on weather caused by La Niña (“little girl” in Spanish) are generally the opposite of those associated with El Niño (“little boy” in Spanish). For this reason, La Niña is also called anti-El Niño and El Viejo (the old man in Spanish). 

La Niña events are associated with catastrophic floods in the mould of 2010 La Niña event which resulted in one of the worst floods in the history of Queensland, Australia where more than 10 000 people were forced to evacuate with damage from the disaster estimated at more than US$2 billion.