The World Food Programme warned it will run out of food for distribution in Zimbabwe by February, putting at risk the lives of almost eight million people, or half the population of the Southern African nation.
“As things stand, we will run out of food by end of February, coinciding with the peak of the hunger season–when needs are at their highest,” WFP Deputy Country Director in Zimbabwe Niels Balzer said in an emailed statement.
Years of drought have cut food production in Zimbabwe, once an African breadbasket. This year’s corn harvest is down 50% compared with 2018, with overall cereal output less than half the national requirement, according to the agency. Runaway inflation, a symptom of the wide-ranging economic crisis Zimbabwe is experiencing, has propelled the prices of basic commodities beyond the reach of all but the most privileged.
WFP plans to double the number of people it assists to 4.1 million and needs more than $200 million for its emergency response in the first half of 2020 alone, according to the statement.
“Firm pledges are urgently needed as it can take up to three months for funding commitments to become food on people’s tables,” Balzer said.
Because of drought and flooding, availability of food across much of Southern Africa is hampered and a large amount of the nearly 200,000 tons of food required to deliver assistance to the 4.1 million people targeted by WFP must be sourced beyond the continent.