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‘Put Your House In Order, Promote Productivity,’ UN Tells Zim Govt

The United Nations (UN) has urged the Zimbabwean government to implement policies that promotes productivity for food self-sustenance in the face of continued threats of starvation by more than five million citizens.

According to Hilal Elver, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, more than 60% of the population is now considered food-insecure, with most households unable to obtain enough food to meet basic needs due to hyperinflation.

She said the food situation in the country was in an emergency state due to government’s failures and rampant partisan distribution of food with opposition supporters being side-lined

“I strongly urge the Government to take the necessary measures to reduce the country’s dependence on imported food, particularly maize, and to support alternative wheat to diversify the diet.

“The Government should create the conditions for the production of traditional seeds to ensure the country’s self-sufficiency and preparedness for the climate shocks that hit the country,” said Elver during a press conference at the end of her 11 day visit.

She said conflict of issues from the government has led to more starvation for the country.

“The reason why I said the crisis is man-made is that this is not a natural occurrence to the country because the country has a vast amount of natural resources. Once upon a time, the country was an important productive nation for Africa where it used to be the breadbasket of Africa.

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“This means something happened, but not from nature but from mismanagement, political and conflict of issues which led to people starving.”

She said 5.5 million people are currently facing food insecurity, as poor rains and erratic weather patterns are impacting harvests and livelihoods but said most of the food insecurity the country is facing is due to misplaced priorities on the part of the government.

ZanuPF members, Tinoda Machakaire and Godfrey Tsenengamu hand over a 50kg bag of rice to two unidentified elderly women in Wedza  recently (Lovejoy Mutongwiza/263Chat)

In urban areas, Elver said, an estimated 2.2 million people are food-insecure and lack access to minimum public services, including health and safe water.

Elver said women and children were bearing the brunt of the crisis.

“The majority of the children I met were stunted and underweight,” she said. “Child deaths from severe malnutrition have been rising in the past few months. 90 % of Zimbabwean children aged six months to two years are not consuming the minimum acceptable diet.

“I saw the ravaging effects of malnutrition on infants deprived of breastfeeding because of their own mothers’ lack of access to adequate food,” she said.

The UN envoy said the crisis in Zimbabwe’s cities was no less severe than in rural areas.

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“I witnessed some of the devastating consequences of the acute economic crisis in the streets of Harare, with people waiting for hours on long lines in front of gas stations, banks, and water dispensaries,” she said.

“The Zimbabweans I spoke to in Harare and its suburbs explained that even if the food was widely available in markets, the erosion of their incomes combined with inflation skyrocketing to over 490%, made them suffer from food insecurity, also impacting the middle-class.

Elver also said that she received “disturbing” information that public hospitals have been reaching out to humanitarian organizations after their own medicine and food stocks were exhausted.

Elver also received an indication that the distribution of lands or food had been manipulated for political ends throughout the last two decades, favoring those who support the ruling political party.

“I call on the Government of Zimbabwe to live up to its zero hunger commitment without any discrimination,” she further stated.

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Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

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