FAMILIES are starving and in dire need of food rescue among other social basics as the global Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the nation’s economic landscape and food systems, unlike in the past, where classified vulnerable groups depended on government and donor welfare safety schemes, The BusinessConnect can report.
The Covid-19 induced national lockdown, initially introduced in late March 2020 brought business to a halt, with those in the formal sector that live on hand to mouth being the most severely affected.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) 2018 research paper titled “Shadow Economies Around the World: What Did We Learn Over the Last 20 Years?” revealed that Zimbabwe has the second largest informal sector in the world.
Zimbabwe, which is also an agriculture-backed economy has experienced prolonged drought, climate-related shocks with the bleak reality worsened by the outbreak of Covid-19, according to the new Global Food Crisis Report Forecast (GFCRF).
“Millions of Zimbabweans are already struggling to put food on the table, having faced prolonged drought and economic hardship for some time. It is imperative that we unite, to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in Zimbabwe and provide urgent food assistance safely to prevent an already vulnerable population from slipping deeper into this hunger crisis,” said WFP country director and representative Eddie Rowe.
Already Zimbabwean leaders from various social spheres are sending warning signals to the government.
“We were instructed long back to write down the names of vulnerable and in need of food aid by the Social Services Department but nothing has materialised and some people may think we diverted the food aid.
“In my ward we were having challenges that everyone wants to be included now. People are saying due to lockdown they cannot continue with the economic activities that they have been sustaining their families and they cannot put food on the table.
“Most people are not employed and are either vendors or engaged in some economic activities. The people are suffering that is the truth. There is no food in the homes,” said Maria Majoni ward 5 Chitungwiza councilor.
Another church leader, Nomatter Ndhlovu said government should urgently address the food situation in communities as families are suffering and breaking.
World Food Programme (WFP) states that the agriculture reliant country, which has however experienced subsequent droughts, is one of the countries in dire food need.
WFP’s latest report on nutrition has warned that an additional 10 million children could be pushed into malnutrition by Covid-19.
“The virus can have a devastating effect on small bodies already weak from poor nutrition. At the same time, the pandemic is having a ruinous effect on vulnerable families relying on a daily wage or a remittance. Covid-related lockdowns and movement restrictions are severely undermining livelihoods, exacerbating existing threats like conflict and weak health systems, making it especially hard for families in poorer nations to afford a nutritious diet.
“If we fail to act now, we’ll face devastating loss of life, health and productivity in future generations. Getting nutrition right today will determine whether the consequences of COVID-19 for children will be felt for months, years or even decades to come,” says Lauren Landis, WFP’s director of nutrition
General poverty and the disruption of the country’s food systems in the country has triggered widespread social ills such crime, risk sexual behaviour, gender based violence as confirmed by authorities and civic groups.
Female Students Network (FSN) warns that young women are now more exposed to Sexual Gender-Based Violence with rippling effects on their sexual reproductive health.
“More of transactional sex cases have been witnessed where sugar daddies are using cyber platforms such as WhatsApp groups, Facebook, and Instagram to lure young women into relationships that are based on in-kind or cash benefits. Unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted disease such as HIV/AIDS are most likely going to increase due to unprotected sex, which might be driven by lack of preparedness and access to preventative measures. Parents have been incapacitated to cater for these needs since most of them rely on informal trading which has been subsequently banned due to COVID-19 pandemic,” noted FSN.
Observers have also noted that food insecurity that has been exacerbated by the pandemic risk-affecting people living with chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS and diabetes.
Nutritious diet is key to fostering the health of a person, especially those taking medication.
Meanwhile Dairibord Zimbabwe has undertaken to supplement the food situation in hospitals through donating various nutritious food hampers to various hospitals in the country under a $3 million donation facility.
“As Dairibord, we saw it fit to rise to the national challenge and join the nation in fighting this global pandemic targeting hospital as beneficiaries. It is our hope that our nutritious food and beverage brands will contribute towards the speedy recovery of the sick, which will create capacity for the hospitals to admit more patients,” said Dairibord Zimbabwe marketing director Mrs. Tracey Mutavire at a handover ceremony to Harare Hospital recently.
WFP’s Global Nutrition Report calls for a pro-equity agenda from governments, businesses and civil society towards arresting malnutrition and tackling injustices in food and health systems.