The European Union has donated EUR3 million to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to assist Zimbabweans facing starvation.
The funding will be used to support highly vulnerable people living in urban communities who are struggling to meet basic food needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The contribution, made through the EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Department (ECHO), will come in the form of cash assistance used to support beneficiaries of WFP’s Urban Social Assistance and Resilience Building Programme.
Recipients will receive USD12 per person, per month via either e-voucher or Western Union cash transfer – to help cover basic food needs such as maize meal, cooking oil and salt. said EU Ambassador Timo Olkkonen:
At the EU, we are committed to working with partners like WFP to bring life-saving assistance to vulnerable populations, most of whom are struggling to make ends meet in these challenging times. But our assistance can never cover all those in need, only sound public social policies and sustainable economic growth based on political and economic reforms can.
WFP Zimbabwe Country Director and Representative Francesca Erdelmann said the already dire food insecurity situation in urban and peri-urban areas has been further exacerbated by restrictive measures implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19. This has resulted in the loss of urban livelihoods and income. Said Francesca Erdelmann:
Urban populations face high living costs to obtain basic food needs, along with other critical items such as rent, water and electricity. We are seeing a 30% increase in the average price (in ZWL) of basic food items (maize meal, maize grain and sugar beans) in the first half of 2021 (Jan-Jul), when compared with the second half of 2020. Cash assistance can help to ease the burden for households, providing people with greater autonomy when planning monthly expenses.
According to the 2020 Urban Livelihoods Assessment, 2.4 million urban dwellers are estimated to be cereal insecure. The findings, released by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) in March 2021, show increasing food insecurity of vulnerable households by 12% since 2019. This is due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures that have resulted in the widespread loss of urban livelihoods.
WFP is assisting 326 000 people, based on available resources. With the support of its partners, WFP aims to reach up to half a million people in urban areas by end of the year.
A total of USD88 million is needed to support growing humanitarian needs in urban locations.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is this year expecting a plentful harvest that will likely change the narrative following good rains in the 2020-21 farming season.
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