Speed up the feed­ing pro­gramme in affected ar­eas

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News -

THERE are cer­tain mea­sures that fam­i­lies re­sort to when they are faced with food short­age. At the ini­tial stages of the food scarcity, they tend to em­ploy short term and nor­mally re­versible cop­ing mech­a­nisms but if the short­age per­sists, they take more des­per­ate and less re­versible strate­gies. If the fam­i­lies take the more des­per­ate mea­sures, it be­comes dif­fi­cult for them to im­prove their so­cial and eco­nomic con­di­tions even if the food sup­ply sit­u­a­tion im­proves.

Stud­ies show that first, house­holds usu­ally change their diet. They, for ex­am­ple, might switch from eat­ing foods they pre­fer the most, to cheaper, less favoured sub­sti­tutes. If the sit­u­a­tion does not im­prove, they, sec­ond, can at­tempt to in­crease their food sup­plies us­ing short-term but un­sus­tain­able strate­gies when re­lied on over a long pe­riod. This in­cludes bor­row­ing or buy­ing food on credit. In this cat­e­gory of cop­ing mech­a­nisms, fam­i­lies can also re­sort to ex­tremes. Ex­am­ples are beg­ging or eat­ing wild foods, im­ma­ture crops, or even seed stocks.

If the food is still in­ad­e­quate to meet the di­etary needs of house­holds, they can try to re­duce the num­ber of peo­ple that they have to feed by send­ing some of them else­where. This typ­i­cally en­tails de­ci­sion mak­ers in house­holds send­ing younger mem­bers of the fam­ily to their neigh­bours or rel­a­tives to eat, thus mak­ing sure that the small por­tions still in their house­hold is eaten by the older fam­ily mem­bers. Fourth, and most com­mon, house­holds can at­tempt to man­age the food deficit by ra­tioning the food avail­able to the house­hold. They re­duce the por­tion or the num­ber of meals, giving cer­tain house­hold mem­bers food over oth­ers, or go­ing for whole day with­out eat­ing.

There is sub­stan­tial ev­i­dence of some of th­ese strate­gies un­fold­ing as the coun­try bat­tles food short­ages after the 2015/16 drought, said to be the worst in 35 years.

The Zim­babwe Vul­ner­a­bil­ity As­sess­ment Com­mit­tee (Zim­vac) 2016 Ru­ral Liveli­hoods As­sess­ment sur­vey shows, as we re­ported yes­ter­day, that while some are bor­row­ing to meet ed­u­ca­tion costs, the bulk of bor­row­ers are tak­ing loans to be able to buy food.

“The high­est pro­por­tion of house­holds across all prov­inces were bor­row­ing to buy food. Mata­bele­land South (54 per­cent), Mata­bele­land North (52 per­cent) and Masvingo (50 per­cent) had the high­est pro­por­tions of house­holds bor­row­ing to pur­chase food,” reads the report.

“Ru­ral food inse­cu­rity for the pe­riod April to June 2016 was es­ti­mated at 6 per­cent and is pro­jected to reach 42 per­cent dur­ing the peak hunger pe­riod (Jan­uary to March 2017). This is the high­est ru­ral food inse­cu­rity preva­lence es­ti­mated since 2009. As ex­pected, there is a pro­gres­sive in­crease in the pro­por­tion of food in­se­cure house­holds as the con­sump­tion year pro­gresses to­wards the peak hunger pe­riod,” reads the report.

This tells us that the food inse­cu­rity chal­lenge is huge in the three prov­inces. Us­ing the World Food Pro­gramme’s four-stage in­dex al­luded to ear­lier, most house­holds in Mata­bele­land South, Mata­bele­land North and Masvingo are in the sec­ond stage.

We com­mend the Gov­ern­ment and its part­ners in their ef­forts to feed the hun­gry. At the same time, we ap­peal to them to in­ten­sify their work in the worst cases Mata­bele­land North, Masvingo and Mata­bele­land South so that the peo­ple in the three prov­inces do not re­sort to the ir­re­versible mea­sures they are tak­ing to ac­quire food.

Only a few cir­cum­stances are more de­grad­ing than go­ing hun­gry for long pe­ri­ods and heads of house­holds hav­ing to rely on loans to be able to put food on the ta­ble. We are con­cerned that, if left to de­te­ri­o­rate fur­ther, there will come a time when the food in­se­cure house­holds will bor­row so much that they get en­trapped in debt and will be un­able to ex­tri­cate them­selves from it. When this hap­pens, the fam­i­lies will have been left with no one to bor­row from. The result of such a sit­u­a­tion is ex­treme hunger which leaves peo­ple mal­nour­ished and phys­i­cally ema­ci­ated.

The Zim­Vac study says ru­ral food inse­cu­rity for the pe­riod April to June 2016 was es­ti­mated at six per­cent but is likely to rise to 42 per­cent be­tween Jan­uary and March 2017. This will be the high­est ru­ral food inse­cu­rity preva­lence since 2009 when the eco­nomic chal­lenges were at their gravest, also a year when the coun­try was hit by yet an­other drought.

We are, how­ever, en­cour­aged by the re­cent state­ment by the Min­is­ter of Pub­lic Ser­vice, Labour and So­cial Wel­fare, Prisca Mup­fu­mira that the Gov­ern­ment and its part­ners are on the ground, work­ing to up­date the fig­ures of the food in­se­cure house­holds and to un­der­stand the ex­tent of the chal­lenge. Such reg­u­lar pro­grammes are the way to go since, as we quoted her say­ing in our is­sue of yes­ter­day, food scarcity is a dy­namic phe­nom­e­non.

As of last week, she said, the coun­try had 320 000 tonnes of maize for dis­tri­bu­tion to the hun­gry. This is a good re­serve of food which must reach those in need of it be­fore they ex­haust all op­tions.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Zimbabwe

© PressReader. All rights reserved.