Acute malnutrition cases are on the rise in Zimbabwe, as food shortages continue to take their toll. Statistics show that one in three children in Zimbabwe suffers from malnutrition. By the end of 2020, projections indicate that the number of hungry Zimbabweans will have risen by almost 50% to 8.6 million.
A Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment (ZimVac) report shows that the percentage of children receiving the minimum acceptable diet necessary for growth and development declined from 6.9% in 2019 to 2.1% in 2020.
Matabeleland, in the south-west of the country, has the highest cases of global acute malnutrition, with an estimated 74,267 children under the age of five affected, including at least 38,425 with severe acute malnutrition.
The declining situation in Zimbabwe, with both prolonged drought and the coronavirus lockdown, is now characterised by high stunting rates, and maternal and child mortality.
ZimVac says there is real concern around infant and young child malnutrition. Only 19% of women of childbearing age ate a diet that met the minimum nutritional limit this year, down from 43% in 2019. This has led to high maternal death rates, according to humanitarian agencies.
As the food crisis worsens in Zimbabwe, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been providing food supplements for malnourished children.
Last week, however, the WFP Zimbabwe director, Francesca Erdelmann, announced that the UN agency is facing a funding gap. “For our portfolio in Zimbabwe between now and the next six months we are short by about $240m [£180m]. These are not amounts of money that are easy to mobilise, and for most of our donors, it’s tough for them too,” Erdelmann said.
“So we really have to try and make sure that we can reach our targets and deliver the support to the people. But if we can’t, we are going to have to make some tough choices and target only the most vulnerable groups.”