One Million women and children in Zimbabwe are suffering from malnutrition and they are in need of urgent food aid according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA).
This came as the World Food Programme Zimbabwe (WFP) is appealing for $250 Million to feed at least 8.6 million Zimbabweans who will face starvation by December 2020. According to UNOCHA:
Drought and crop failure, exacerbated by macro-economic challenges and austerity measures, have directly affected vulnerable households in both rural and urban communities. Inﬂation continues to erode purchasing power and affordability of food and other essential goods is a daily challenge.
Nutritional needs remain high, with over 1,1 million children and women requiring urgent nutrition assistance. Child malnutrition, including acute malnutrition or wasting, is also expected to increase due to steep declines in household incomes, changes in the availability and affordability of nutritious foods, and interruptions to health, nutrition, and social protection services,” the humanitarian office said.
The impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) is likely to result in at least an additional 15 000 children being wasted, in addition to the 100 000 children expected to be wasted this year. In addition, numbers of pellagra cases are likely to continue to increase as food insecurity in the country deepens and household income for accessing diversiﬁed diets continues to be depleted by the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown and economic crisis.
Due to the drought-induced food insecurity, the majority of households in the country require food assistance to facilitate adequate dietary intake and prevent deterioration of the nutrition status of children, women and other vulnerable groups like the disabled. Already nationally 56 percent of women consume less than ﬁve groups of recommended foods
UNOCHA further said the health system in Zimbabwe has deteriorated and this has also increased the plight of Zimbabweans who are also facing a drought:
At least four million vulnerable Zimbabweans are facing challenges accessing primary health care and drought conditions trigger several health risks.There has been a continued declining access and utilisation of essential services including preventive, curative and rehabilitation services, with several provinces reporting decreased access to health services a result of insufficient health workers-industrial action, health workers in isolation/quarantine as a result of Covid-19 infection; insufficient PPE; and the recent institution of user fees in facilities.
Several health facilities particularly in urban areas request Covid-19 test results before they can attend to patients. The main challenges (in Zimbabwe’s health system) relate to health care workers, including persistent industrial action by nurses, notice to strike by additional health worker cadres, and increasing number of health workers infected with Covid-19.
Covid-19 response, including delayed implementation of national decisions aimed at scaling up community surveillance, contact tracing and community-level isolation facilities, insufficient capacity for hospitalisation of moderate-severe ill Covid-19 patients, and delayed placement of orders of essential supplies (lab kits, PPE) including where funding is already available; and delivery of essential health services, with declining coverage of essential services as of end June 2020, and 26 districts out of 63 districts reporting routine immunisation coverage with 80%