Zimbabwe / Red Cross begins emergency food distribution
HARARE, Zimbabwe, September 17, 2008/African Press Organization (APO)/ — Red Cross Red Crescent trucks will today (Wednesday 17 September) leave warehouses in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare carrying 383 metric tons of food aid for vulnerable communities across the country.
As part of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) 27.7 million Swiss franc (26.8 million US dollar/17.1 million euro) food security operation, this initial deployment will provide almost 24,000 people in eight of Zimbabwe’s provinces with enough maize, beans and cooking oil to last for one month. A total of 260,100 people will be supported each month.
“This is a critical period for these communities,” says Peter Lundberg, the head of the IFRC’s delegation in Harare. “They have already faced months without enough food and, for many families, the situation has deteriorated drastically in recent weeks.”
The chronic food situation in Zimbabwe is the result of an accumulation of a number of negative factors. Alternating droughts and rain, influenced by climate change, has resulted in a disastrously underperforming 2008 harvest, one that is widely seen as the worst in the country’s history. In addition, ongoing socio-economic decline has contributed to a severe lack of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, leaving even fertile fields unsown.
On top of this the country’s record hyper-inflation is now estimated at above 11 million per cent.
IFRC food distributions are planned to continue for the next nine months, supporting 260,100 people infected or affected by HIV and AIDS with 35,000 metric tons of food. This group, explains Françoise Le Goff, head of the IFRC’s Southern Africa zone, is particularly vulnerable to food shortages.
“Many of these people are on anti-retroviral medication (ART). For these drugs to work effectively, people need food. Without a full stomach, many of those on ART are now choosing to default on their treatment as they can’t cope with the debilitating side effects,” says Ms Le Goff.
According to health authorities in Masvingo Province – one of the regions worst affected by the food crisis – 70 per cent of people on ART have defaulted in recent months because of the lack of food. Once treatment is stopped, the HIV virus typically returns with a vengeance, causing a rapid deterioration in health.
SOURCE : International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)