Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver has said that more than 60% of the population of a country once seen as the breadbasket of Africa is now considered food-insecure, with most households unable to obtain enough food to meet basic needs due to hyperinflation.
Zimbabwe this year suffered from weather-related tragedies of drought and Cyclone Idai which caused floods; all this negatively impacting agriculture, the main source of food in the southern African country.
The natural catastrophes visited Zimbabwe at a time when the country is facing economic challenges which have resulted in prices of basic commodities going up. Finance Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube, however, denies the existence of hyperinflation in the country.
“In rural areas, a staggering 5.5 million people are currently facing food insecurity, as poor rains and erratic weather patterns are impacting harvests and livelihoods. In urban areas, an estimated 2.2 million people are food-insecure and lack access to minimum public services, including health and safe water,” Elver said.
“These are shocking figures and the crisis continues to worsen due to poverty and high unemployment, widespread corruption, severe price instabilities, lack of purchasing power, poor agricultural productivity, natural disasters, recurrent droughts and unilateral economic sanctions.”
Elver said people from Masvingo and Mwenezi revealed that they were eating only one portion of cooked maize a day.
The rapporteur said women, the elderly and children are barely able to meet their minimum food needs and are largely dependent on food assistance, while most of the men are abroad seeking work.
“Without access to a diversified and nutritious diet, rural Zimbabweans, particularly younger children, barely survive,” Elver said.
“I strongly urge the Government to take the necessary measures to reduce the country’s dependence on imported food, particularly maize, and to support alternative wheats to diversify the diet. The Government should create the conditions for the production of traditional seeds to ensure the country’s self-sufficiency and preparedness for the climate shocks that hit the country.”
The Special Rapporteur also said the crisis in Zimbabwe’s cities was no less severe than in rural areas.
She also called the situation in the country’s health institutions disturbing.
“I witnessed some of the devastating consequences of the acute economic crisis in the streets of Harare, with people waiting for hours on long lines in front of gas stations, banks, and water dispensaries,” she said.
“The Zimbabweans I spoke to in Harare and its suburbs explained that even if food was widely available in markets, the erosion of their incomes combined with an inflation skyrocketing to over 490%, made them suffer from food insecurity, also impacting the middle-class.”