Zimbabwe is facing its worst malnutrition rates in 15 years in the wake of crippling drought and crop failures, the UN’s children’s agency said on Tuesday
Nearly 33 000 children are now in urgent need of treatment for “severe acute malnutrition,” acting Unicef representative Jane Muita said in a statement.
On Tuesday the official Herald newspaper reported that the number of those now thought to be in need of emergency food aid in Zimbabwe had risen by an extra million people to reach four million – nearly one third of Zimbabwe’s population.
“Indications are that the figure of vulnerable households requiring food assistance could be as high as four million people,” Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira told the newspaper.
In January the number of those likely to need food aid was put at around three million.
In 2002, six million Zimbabweans needed food aid in the wake of poor rains and disruptions to production caused by the land reform programme.
Muita was quoted on Tuesday as saying: “We have not seen these levels of malnutrition in more than 15 years and although the government and its partners are doing their best to assist, more needs to be done to prevent this crisis from spiralling out of control.”
Unicef said 2.1 percent of children under five years old had severe acute malnutrition. Most of them were between the ages of one and two years old.
The state-run Sunday Mail reported at the weekend that the Zimbabwe government planned from May to introduce a feeding programme in schools in drought-hit areas. If it goes ahead, it will target children in the first two years of schooling, normally aged between five and seven-years-old or eight-years-old.