Zimbabwe has been in the throes of an El Niño-induced drought for more than a year, placing as many as 4.5 million people in food insecurity throughout the country, according to a recent Reuters article. The prolonged poor weather conditions mean that the upcoming dry season – September and October – is likely to be worse than normal, placing even more pressure on already strained local water supplies.
The latest Zimbabwe Humanitarian Situation Report cites that water levels in all of Zimbabwe’s seven catchment areas are 18 percent below capacity, and many areas are expected to implement water use restrictions. Similarly, the Rural WASH Information Management System has reported that approximately 11,000 sources of water (including boreholds and wells) are experiencing reduced yields and over 750 perennial water sources are seeing reduced capacity or are completely drying up. This has reduced access to safe water for an estimated 3.4 million people across the country.
According to the UNDP, food insecurity has increased across nearly all populations, both rural and urban, in all 60 districts in the country. In Binga and Mudzi districts, which have the highest levels of food insecurity, the UNDP estimates that 79 percent of the population will be food insecure from January-March 2017.
While over US$ 100 million has been committed to aid for Zimbabwe from governments and international donors since April 2016, aid levels have still not reached the US$ 360 million sought to address the crisis. In a recent interview, UN Resident Coordinator Bishow Parajuli discussed this significant funding gap, emphasizing the need for funding to support health and nutrition programs, sanitation and hygiene, education, and social protection programs in addition to food aid. Investing in all of these sectors will be necessary to both protect populations from hunger and disease in the short term and help rebuild livelihoods in the longer term.
The Government of Zimbabwe has announced plans to distribute agricultural inputs to farmers ahead of the 2016-2017 agricultural season; these inputs will include maize and cotton seeds and fertilizers.
Zimbabwe is not the only country being impacted by El Niño; the entire Southern Africa region is experiencing the worst drought in 35 years, according to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). As many as 41 million people in the region now face food insecurity as a result of poor weather conditions and low agricultural yields. More than 21 million are in urgent need of food aid.
Water scarcity is also expected to worsen across the region. According to a 2012 World Bank report, dam and lake levels in Southern Africa are expected to fall by up to 50 percent by 2080, due mostly to the effects of climate change and weather patterns like El Niño.
To learn more about the current food security situation across southern Africa, watch this video from FEWS.net.
By: Sara Gustafson