Thousands of Zimbabweans receive food aid as drought and hunger bite

Foods rations distributed to 30,000 people in Zimbabwe following drought and crop failure. The problems in Zimbabwe are being felt across the region, threatening the lives of millions of people who are facing hunger this year and next because of drought and erratic rains linked to an expected “super” version of the El Nino weather pattern.

CHIREDZI, ZIMBABWE (OCTOBER 8, 2015) (REUTERS) – Nearly 30,000 people in Zimbabwe have began to receive food aid. The Southern African country has been hit hard by drought that has halved the maize harvest to 742,000 tonnes this year, according to the U.N.’s World Food Programme.

The food rations consist of cereal and vegetable oil.

Easter Chikwakwa lives in Chiredzi District in south-eastern Zimbabwe. Like many small-scale farmers, she lost of most of her harvest because of low rainfall and persistent drought.

“We planted sorghum in our fields but we did not harvest anything due to hot weather that dried the crops and low rain fall. We are very grateful to receive this food because life is so tough here,” she said.

Walking home with her family, 35-year-old Miriam Gomba hopes the food they received today will be enough to feed everyone for a few weeks.

Their diet consists primarily of a stiff sorghum porridge that they eat once a day.

“I live with my family: my mother, my father, my husband and our three daughters. Only one of my daughters goes to school. We only cook one meal a day because we don’t have food. We didn’t have a good harvest this year compared to last year that would ensure we would be able to eat three meals a day due,” she said.

British charity Oxfam has warned that 10 million people, mostly in Africa, face hunger because of drought and unusual rainfall patterns caused by a “super” El Nino.

The last “super” El Nino occurred in 1997-1998.

While the weather phenomenon heralds drought in some parts of the globe and flooding in others, this one follows record temperatures linked to global warming.

Aid agencies estimate 1.5 million Zimbabweans, or 16 percent of the population, would need food aid by March 2016.

Tinashe Mubaira, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP) in Zimbabwe says in Chiredzi alone, close to 30,000 people are at risk of going hungry.

“In terms of needs at the moment, you will notice that we are looking at almost slightly over a half million of people that are in need nationally as we are looking at it and from that we are saying in Chiredzi that’s almost 11 percent of the population is currently in need at the moment, that is almost around 27,000 people at the moment in Chiredzi alone,” he said.

The drought’s impact is looking particularly serious for Zimbabwe, where the economy has been struggling for five years to recover from a catastrophic recession that was marked by billion percent hyperinflation and widespread food shortages.