George Chisoko Senior Assistant Editor
THE United Nations and its development partners are committed to assisting Zimbabwe tackle food shortages caused by the El Nino-induced drought, and have to date mobilised $80 million to complement Government mitigatory efforts, UN Resident Co-ordinator Mr Bishow Parajuli has said.
Drought has ravaged most parts of the country, especially, Matabeleland and Masvingo that fall in natural farming region four and five, which are generally low-rainfall areas. Total crop failure has meant that people in these areas now depend heavily on food handouts from the Government, UN and its development partners.
A team comprising representatives of the UN, Government, World Food Programme, Save the Children, Ambassadors of DRC, Namibia, Botswana and Angola toured Umguza, Lupane and Binga last week to assess the food situation and appraise themselves of the responses to the drought.
Mr Parajuli told journalists after the two-day field visit that the UN and its development partners were committed to mobilising resources to assist the Government and the people of Zimbabwe.
“Our visit to some districts of Matabeleland North has been quite an eye-opener. The drought affected crops and livestock and the people need food assistance.
“The Government cannot be expected to provide the food assistance alone but needs supporting partners to tackle the food shortages caused by drought. I am, however, pleased that the people in the affected areas have not been idle waiting for assistance but have been involved in a number of projects to improve their situation,’’ said Mr Parajuli.
The thrust of Government and UN support has not just focused on the people but has extended to livestock, given that Matabeleland is largely a livestock region.
The intervention by the UN, Government and other development partners has seen farmers in Lupane District building livestock feedlots and cattle dipping facilities. Several boreholes have also been drilled to alleviate the shortage of drinking water for both humans and livestock.
The food shortages have also seen a rise in the number of children failing to attend school because of hunger, which has been exacerbated by the long distances the children walk to school.
However, Save the Children has started a programme to feed the schoolchildren and this has resulted in school attendance increasing. Lupane District Administrator Mr Jusa Zachariah said the recent rainfall had helped save some crops from being written off.
“The Government is taking care of the people in terms of their food requirements and we are also encouraging them to take care of their livestock. The water table has recharged, the pastures are now there and we remain hopeful that the livestock will be saved from death,’’ said Mr Zachar- iah.
Democratic Republic of Congo Ambassador and Dean of the Diplomatic Corps Mr Mwampanga Mwana Nanga said it was encouraging to see Zimbabweans in the drought-hit areas doing something about their situation.
“Yes, we have drought but the people are not just sitting, crying out for assistance. We have seen the Chininga Dam that they built in Binga with the assistance from WFP.
“We have also seen the boreholes, cattle feedlots and the fish projects and I am indeed impressed about the projects undertaken by the people for their own benefit,’’ said Mr Mwana Nanga.
He said Zimbabwe’s food shortages needed a multi-faceted response and that as African ambassadors they would mobilise food aid for distribution to the affected areas.
Mr Parajuli underscored the importance of investment in irrigation and farm productivity as some of the ways of building grain reserves and reducing the dependence on food assis- tance.