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Prepare for El Nino effects

Aid agencies have taken the lead with the UN crafting an anticipatory action plan to assist Zimbabwe in mitigating the negative impacts of El Niño, an extreme dry spell and significantly reduced rainfall.

THE latest Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FewsNet) report has warned that most poor households in Zimbabwe will be reduced to one meal a day between February and May next year due to food shortages caused by poor rainfall during the 2023/24 rainy season.

FewsNet said the areas of concern would be Masvingo, Manicaland and middle-veld smallholder communal livelihood zones.

Households, according to the report, are expected to intensify expanding income-earning opportunities through activities such as livestock sales, casual labour and petty trade, but income is expected to remain below normal due to low demand and liquidity challenges.

“Low purchasing power will constrain market purchases because of low income and high food prices. Household access to food is likely to deteriorate, with an increasing number of households reducing the number of daily meals from two to one.

“Household access to wild foods to supplement consumption is expected to be low due to the anticipated below-average rainfall,” the report said.

 Aid agencies have taken the lead with the UN crafting an anticipatory action plan to assist Zimbabwe in mitigating the negative impacts of El Niño, an extreme dry spell and significantly reduced rainfall.

In its plan, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the roadmap was aimed at contributing towards improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) outcomes, reducing the risks of food insecurity among vulnerable communities, preventing negative coping strategies, and reducing loss and damage among drought-affected households.

On WASH, OCHA is targeting a total of 339 000 people from 16 districts with an anticipated budget of US$9,4 million led by Unicef.

OCHA also expects to assist 171 000 learners from 19 districts on a budget of US$3,7 million.

The UN plan will also emphasise protection through designing interventions in advance, offering an opportunity to elevate the overall quality of programming, with a particular focus on ensuring the centrality of protection concerns.

On food security, OCHA has set a budget of US$6,9 million targeting at least 180 000 people from 10 districts and the project will be implemented by the World Food Programme and Food and Agriculture Organisation.

This is a concrete plan which we expect our government to put in place to deal with El Nino.

In his post Cabinet briefing on Tuesday, Information minister Jenfan Muswere said the Grain Marketing Board had stocks of 194 429 metric tonnes and 47 477 metric tonnes of maize and traditional grains,  respectively as of November 19.

Wheat stocks of 231 776 metric tonnes as at the same date would last 11 months at a monthly drawdown of 21 000 metric tonnes.

He said the monthly consumption for grains was estimated at 23 000 MT comprising 20 000MT maize for millers and 3 000MT sorghum for stockfeed manufacturers.

The statistics point to a rosy outlook. However, this is an update of the national granary. Despite that, drought will be felt in homes and companies, increasing the number of vulnerable citizens.

A comprehensive plan that cuts across all sectors is needed to show the government's seriousness in dealing with the potential threats.

We hope that Finance minister Mthuli Ncube will take that into consideration in the 2024 national budget which he presents next week. We were found wanting during the COVID-19 pandemic when all safety nets were non-existent.  A repeat of a gaffe of such magnitude is too ghastly to contemplate.

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