Erratic rains and unusual mid-season droughts over the past year have triggered critical levels of crop failure in Zimbabwe, leaving more than two million people in need of urgent food assistance in the coming lean months, according to the World Food Programme (WFP).
The meagre maize and cereal harvest combined with rapidly tumbling grain stocks and subsequent inflated prices have also forced President Mugabe’s government to depend upon expensive food imports, mainly from neighbouring Zambia and South Africa.
"The food security situation in Zimbabwe is dire, especially in the arid and marginalised Matabeleland provinces where Christian Aid and our local partner organisations work", warns Miriam Machaya, country programme manager for Christian Aid Zimbabwe.
"As well as poor rains and drought, a whole host of negative factors including widespread poverty constraining even basic farming investment, the late or total unavailability of government-funded seeds and fertilisers, damaging farming methods, and pest outbreaks, have contributed to frightening levels of potential hunger and malnutrition.
"In Insiza district particularly, our partner Zimpro reports that the hunger situation is precarious, with only three out of 23 wards recording any surplus food."
In addition to an increasingly unreliable climate and unseasonal droughts during the 2012/13 farming season, Machaya says that the current situation is compounded by Zimbabwe’s souring international donor relations.
"The recently concluded election outcome and policies of President Mugabe’s new political dispensation is also likely to have a bearing on food and income availability, as relations with donors continue to decline.
"Christian Aid’s Zimbabwe programme and partners are currently undertaking rapid emergency hunger assessments to analyse the food security situation here thoroughly, with special focus on the Matabeleland region", said Machaya.
She concluded, "Our findings will help us to identify and quantify the most vulnerable populations and assess their coming food needs, as well as forming the basis of potential food aid interventions. I believe that an early response now could really help to save lives over the coming months."