Ill-prepared Zim govt budgets US$374 million for hungry urban dwellers  

No food handouts for urbanites


Annahstacia Ndlovu

Bulawayo—The Zimbabwean government has said it will soon start rolling out cash payouts to close to two million people living in urban areas who are among those affected by the El Nino-induced drought currently affecting Southern Africa.

The cash handouts will be used to buy food so as to mitigate against hunger that is affecting some 7.7 million people, according to a recent Zimbabwe Livelihoods Assessment Committee (ZimLAC) report.

About 1.7 million of the people facing food hunger are in urban areas, the report also indicates.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa early last month declared the drought a national disaster, following in the footsteps of Zambia and Malawi.

He added that US$2 billion would be required to meet the food needs of affected citizens.

Speaking at the official opening of the Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) in Bulawayo last Wednesday, Social Welfare minister, July Moyo, said vulnerable urban households struggling with food insecurity would receive up to US$20 each.

“Urban families will receive USD$13 to USD$20 in local ZIG (currency) equivalent, depending on their needs,” said the minister.

This translates to a maximum US$34 million per month and US$374 million to the next harvest season to be spent on urban food needs.

Moyo added that the government approved a humanitarian appeal of food worth US$2 billion.

This prompted the UN community that includes the World Food Programme (WFP), World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF to step in to supplement the required resources.

“When you have drought, everyone is affected. It’s not only food insecurity (because) there are also problems regarding water and energy. There is gender-based violence. We need to feed the children in primary and secondary school so that they don’t suffer stunting and malnutrition,” added Moyo.

Rural families are expected to receive grain and other food items.

Moyo claimed that they had already “started distribution of food in rural areas” and “we are not distributing food in urban areas (but) cash for food”.


Even though the government and relevant stakeholders had been warned in early forecasts that El Nino would severely affect rainfall patterns, the Zimbabwean government recently claimed that it had been caught off guard.

Finance minister, Mthuli Ncube, recently appeared before the parliamentary portfolio committee on Budget and Finance where he admitted to government’s ill-preparedness for the drought.

“We dint know how deep the drought was…So the element of surprise is in there,” said Ncube.

As a result, he added, there was need to adjust the national budget to mitigate against the prevalent food insecurity that has affected more than 50 percent of the population.

Ncube indicated that government would possibly be forced to borrow money “here and there” to mobilise the required funds.

Over the decades, the government has left international non-government organisations to source the bulk of the resources needed to respond to humanitarian disasters.

While it has also come up with local interventions, the aid it has moblised on its own has been tainted by accusations of partisan distribution, whereby citizens perceived as critics of government have been excluded in both urban and rural areas.

A civic rights defender, Mbuso Fuzwayo, called on the ruling Zanu PF government to be non-partisan.

“We call on the government of Zimbabwe to desist from its usual habit (of partisanship) because almost half of the population is facing hunger,” he said.

He urged citizens to name and shame individuals deliberately excluding people from the drought mitigation projects.

Urban residents who spoke to NewsHub in Bulawayo said low-income households were already struggling to put food on the table.

“We are finding it difficult to get food for the family and our children now go to school without eating. The government is taking too long to bring the food aid,” said Thandekile Mpofu, a Bulawayo resident.

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