Photograph — Medecins Sans Frontiers

Zimbabwe has been classified as one of the 18 countries in the world that will likely come out of the raging coronavirus pandemic in a worse off situation as an economic crisis continues to engulf the country.

In a recent report by the World Food Programme (WFP),  it was stated Zimbabwe has been facing several issues in the past, such as food insecurity caused by an economic collapse, political instability and social unrest, which may worsen in the coming months.

According to WFP, the country may come out of the deadly outbreak in a worse off situation. “Donor support was needed now more than ever for Zimbabwe and other countries affected by political instability as they fight the COVID-19, for many people, WFP is the only source of food and survival,” says the United Nations agency.

Zimbabwe, which has been declared by WFP as a Hunger Hot spot, was classified as ”overheating” alongside other countries like Haiti, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Western Niger. 

The WFP records show that 45 million people in the 16-nation Southern African Development Community are faced with growing hunger following repeated drought, widespread flooding, and economic disarray. Zimbabwe is facing its worst food insecurity in recent memory, with more than five million people in need of assistance, WFP says.

Late last year, the agency’s head in Zimbabwe, Eddie Rowe noted that the need for food assistance was once confirmed to be in rural areas, but now some 2 million people in urban areas also need help. “We are talking of urban poverty where you have not just food insecurity but high rates of unemployment,” he said.

Food inflation had increased to over 700 percent by the end of 2019 and is likely to rise further during the peak of the lean season between harvests in the first quarter of 2020. The report adds that farmers are still struggling to access agricultural materials, bringing fears of another poor harvest.

An analysis from a recent International Food Classification report estimated that about 4.3 million people were facing severe acute food insecurity in the country between February to June 2020 and the figure was expected to rise through to March.

Zimbabwe’s economy contracted by 7.5 percent in 2019, according to the World Bank, with extreme poverty rising to 34 percent or 5.7 million people, while the country faces its worst hunger crisis in a decade. 

Inflation was running at more than 500 percent at the end of last year. The newly introduced Zimbabwean dollar (ZWL$) has lost most of its value, and climate change has crippled the country’s agriculture and electricity generation, rendering more than half of the population food insecure.

As the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, with a social distancing policy meant to curb the spread of the disease, the situation becomes more difficult for citizens as they struggle to obtain food, cash, and clean water. 

The World Health Organization’s recommended virus precautions seem far-fetched for the country’s population of 15 million people. And at this time, Zimbabwe needs adequate intervention from relevant agencies to rescue its economy from plunging further into crisis.

By Ahmed Iyanda.

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