Felex Share Senior Reporter
The number of people in need of food aid has ballooned to four million as it emerged that donors will at the end of this month hand over millions of people they were assisting to the Government food deficit mitigation programme.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira yesterday said Government had enough grain stocks to cover for the deficit and was speeding up the process to import grain to ensure no one starves.
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She said the social partners’ lean season would end this month and they were winding up their programmes.
The lean season is when people turn to food aid for survival.
“The compilation of the new beneficiary registers has now been finalised,” Minister Mupfumira said. “Indications are that the figure of vulnerable households requiring food assistance could be as high as four million people. This has been further compounded by the fact that our social partners are winding their programmes at the end of March 2016.
“All those benefiting currently will be migrated to the Government programme. According to the social partners the lean season covers December to March and this means that they are ending this month.”
Last month, about 1 056 718 drought-affected people received assistance from the World Food Programme and its implementing partners such as Care International and World Vision.
The initial Zimbabwe Vulnerable Assessment Committee (ZimVac) report produced for 2015 captured that 1,5 million people were in need of food aid, but the El Niño-induced drought has seen the numbers increasing.
Minister Mupfumira said as at March 10, Government had about 91 326 tonnes in stock, enough to cater for the next three months.
“We have mobilised the resources, and it is all systems out to ensure grain is moved from areas with surplus maize to those that have a deficit,” she said.
“We are now looking forward to the importation programmes to increase the flows, but the situation is under control. In terms of transportation, the District Development Fund has adopted a ‘hit and run’ concept that operates with a fleet of 10 trucks that move from province to province distributing maize from the Grain Marketing Board depots to the vulnerable.”
Minister Mupfumira said Government was re-introducing its public works programmes, commonly known as food-for-work.
“Districts have been advised to separate labour constrained households from those that are not,” she said. “While the labour-constrained households will continue to receive free food, those that are not will be expected to participate in the food-for-work programme. Of all the people categorised under vulnerable, there are some who can work.”
Minister Mupfumira warned officials against distributing food on partisan basis saying those caught would be dealt with according to the law.
She, however, said it was difficult for the food to be distributed on political party lines as there were tight mechanisms in place from the time the grain is released from the GMB depots, until it reached the beneficiaries.
“When people are given, they are not told to produce a party card,” Minister Mupfumira said.
“So, it is false that the food is distributed on political grounds. The teams that we have, be it at provincial or district levels, operate according to the needs in their areas and moreover their district relief committees have social partners.”
Sources said the MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai had written to some United Nations agencies complaining that the food aid was being given to Zanu-PF members only.
Said Minister Mupfumira: “As Government, we have a responsibility to ensure people have food despite political affiliation.
“We have called in relevant authorities and warned them, and anyone who refuses others food aid will be dealt with.” This year’s El Niño has been described as the most severe in 18 years.
President Mugabe last month declared a state of disaster to allow for mobilisation of resources to mitigate the effects of the drought-induced hunger facing the country.
Government has since directed the GMB to slash the price of maize from $23 per 50kg bag to $15 to enable the majority of people affected by the drought to buy the staple food. Zimbabwe requires about two million tonnes of maize for human and livestock consumption annually, while the country only harvested about 700 000 tonnes last season.