BULAWAYO, Zimbabwe, NOV. 6, 2007 (Zenit.org).- The secretary-general of Caritas called Zimbabwe a “tragedy,” and she says the situation threatens to worsen as nearly one-third of the entire population faces the possibility of starvation.
More than 4 million people in Zimbabwe will face critically low levels of staple foods by early next year unless they receive food aid to survive over the next six months, Caritas reported. The aid organization plans to scale up its operations to provide food for more than 100,000 people until April.
Caritas Internationalis Secretary-General Lesley Anne Knight said, “The people of Zimbabwe are suffering. Harvests have failed as a result of poor rainfall and unsuccessful land reforms. The shops lie empty as the economic crisis worsens. The national health, education and agricultural services have collapsed. Zimbabweans who can are fleeing the tragedy that the country has become.”
Caritas has launched an appeal for $7 million. Statistics reported by the aid organization are dire.
Families in rural parts of Zimbabwe have produced only 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of maize for the year. Child malnutrition rates have doubled to 12% since last November. Urban areas are also under threat with 80% unemployment and 8,000% inflation making basic food too expensive to buy.
Church leaders in Zimbabwe have blamed President Robert Mugabe’s government for overseeing the economic and social collapse, for violating the freedom and fundamental rights of the people, and for failing to tackle rampant corruption.
Knight said, “Unless the international community fills the shortfall in food, Zimbabwe faces a humanitarian crisis. The Zimbabwe government must ensure this food aid gets through to the people who need it most. The government there must also ensure it puts the policies in place, including political reforms, to ensure that a country which in the past was regarded as the regional breadbasket, can once more feed itself.”
The country has had a series of poor harvests due to droughts and as a result of a poorly implemented land reform process that has left many new farmers unable to use their land. Zimbabwe produced 40% less food this year than the year before.
Although Zimbabwe is set to import food, even taking into account its projected imports, there is still a 10% gap in the food the nation needs.
At the same time, the economic crisis in Zimbabwe has reduced the ability of the government to deliver health, education and agricultural support services, Caritas reported.
Moreover, the aid organization noted, the full impact of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Zimbabwe, with prevalence rates of over 20% in those between the age of 19-29, has severally weakened people’s capacity to cope in times of need, and life expectancy in Zimbabwe is now estimated at less than 40 years for both men and women.