By Wallace Mawire
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has today commenced cash disbursements in the scale up of the Urban Social Assistance programme in Zimbabwe thanks to funding from the United States through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
USAID’s support will provide relief for vulnerable families in eight urban areas across Zimbabwe struggling to meet their daily food needs due to the effects of COVID-19. USAID and WFP are meeting the needs of people living in Gokwe, Redcliff, Kwekwe, Ruwa, Chinhoyi, Buhera, Chipinge, and Chegutu.
The financial assistance from USAID allows WFP to provide support to over 103,700 people with monthly cash-based assistance equivalent to US$12 each, enabling them to meet almost two-thirds of their daily food requirements for the next six months. USAID and WFP will reach the most vulnerable and food insecure families, particularly women, people who are unemployed, and people suffering from chronic illness or disability.
COVID-19 is aggravating Zimbabwe’s already severe climate- and recession-induced food security crisis, threatening to deepen and widen it. WFP projections indicate that by year’s end, the number of food insecure people will have surged by nearly 50 percent to 8.6 million – a staggering 60 percent of the population. In urban areas, where ongoing lockdown measures have triggered a massive loss of livelihoods, the number of food insecure people is expected to rise to 3.3 million, from 2.2 million, as the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic become more pronounced.
“The United States remains committed to the people of Zimbabwe. In addition to the US$10 million we have provided to support the cash transfers for over 103,700 vulnerable Zimbabweans in eight urban areas, we are providing over US$60 million to support food distributions for nearly one million people in rural areas during the current lean season. During the pandemic, we will continue to prioritize our critical health and humanitarian assistance activities,” said USAID/Zimbabwe Mission Director Mr. Art Brown.
In Zimbabwe, the lockdown measures have led to the shutdown of informal food markets, and as a result, informal workers struggle to find work, while access to food has become a key challenge for poor urban households.
“Today we have expanded our urban social assistance programme to ease the challenges faced by urban communities, which have been worsened by COVID-19. We are grateful to USAID for its support in such a time as this,” said Francesca Erdelmann, WFP Zimbabwe Representative and Country Director.
WFP’s Urban Social Assistance programme is scaling up to reach 326,004 people in 22 vulnerable urban domains in September, from its target of 292,865 people across 19 urban areas in August.