Mid-Year Review of the Consolidated Appeal for Zimbabwe 2008
Throughout the first six months of the year the already fragile humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe has been further compounded by yet another year of poor agricultural production (such that up to 3.8 million persons may be food-insecure by the end of the year). Large numbers of the vulnerable population have become increasingly dependent on humanitarian assistance after having depleted most of their household resources, and further impacting the humanitarian situation is the high level of internal and external displacement associated with election violence. This is happening at the same time that access restrictions have been imposed upon the humanitarian community since the start of the election period in early March 2008, with the result that needs are being met only partially if at all, and the information available to humanitarian monitoring systems is declining. Underlying the crisis remains the deterioration of all segments of the economy, and a new factor – that of xenophobic violence in South Africa against foreigners, many of the victims of which have been Zimbabwean.
The 2007/2008 agricultural season was characterised by a mosaic of heavy rains, flooding, and a long dry spell in the early part of the season, as well as continuing systemic deficiencies in land use, marketing, infrastructure and agricultural input support. The joint Government, FAO and WFP Crop Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) undertaken in April 2008 estimates the deficit in cereals, which will somehow have to be made up in imports, at 1.232 million tons, including one million tonnes of maize. Given the scale of the projected deficit and the numbers of people who as a result are estimated to need assistance – 2.04 million people in need of food assistance from July to September, 3.8 million from October to December, and 5.1 million people from January to March 2009 – food assistance programmes will doubtless have to be increased as Government imports of maize are likely to be severely reduced given its limited access to foreign currency.
However, these needs are becoming apparent at the same time that access is becoming increasingly constrained during the election period. The Government requested, initially informally, humanitarian agencies to reduce their field presence and scale down operations until after the 27 June 2008 presidential election re-run. On 4 June 2008, a letter requesting a full cessation of NGO and PVO field operations was issued by the government, thereby paralysing most humanitarian action. Heavily restricted access has affected life-supporting actions and monitoring of vital indicators in the field, including the delivery of food to the home-based care programmes in the country. In addition, humanitarian agencies have been seriously hampered in their response to the needs of the population affected by the violence.
Political instability and related violence in Zimbabwe has placed considerable strain on coping mechanisms and income-generating activities, and contributed to a further increase in unemployment, already at an all-time high of 80%. Widespread violence and intimidation started shortly after the first round of elections in March 2008, and has continued throughout the period before the upcoming presidential election re-run, planned for 27 June 2008. As of end May 2008, political violence had displaced an estimated 28,000 persons throughout the country. The IASC Country Team has updated its Contingency Plan to ensure preparedness in the event of increased political violence and a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation following the next round of elections.
With an inflation rate of 355,000% in March 2008, by far the highest in the world, the poor state of Zimbabwe’s economy continues to erode basic social service delivery and galvanise the migration of skilled labour. Diaspora remittance support has played a significant role in mitigating the impact of the humanitarian crisis, particularly for families living in the vulnerable urban areas and the southern part of the country. However, this support may diminish following xenophobic violence in South Africa in May 2008. An unconfirmed number of the estimated three million Zimbabweans living in South Africa are reported to be fleeing back to Zimbabwe or into neighbouring countries to escape the violence.
The IASC Country Team and its partners continue to negotiate with the Government for full access to all beneficiaries while at the same time exploring alternative ways to ensure the timely delivery of life-saving support. In light of the worsening of the humanitarian situation, the next six months require a significant scaling-up of life-saving support to adequately address the increased vulnerabilities. The