Is half Zimbabwe’s population starving or what?


When one hears about famine or starvation one immediately thinks about Ethiopia in the 1980s. One immediately sees pictures of helpless mothers watching their children die in their arms.

It is therefore shocking to hear that half the population of Zimbabwe, a country which boasts of abundant natural resources, is facing serious food shortages.

There are no pictures of starving children yet but according to the World Food Programme 7.7 million people in Zimbabwe need food assistance.

The figures were given by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee which includes Zimbabwe government departments.

It says 5.5 million of these are in rural areas and 2.2 million are in urban areas. But right now the WFP is seeking food for 4.1 million people.

The catch word seems to be “food insecurity”. One cannot therefore say people are starving.

Apparently, food security is now determined by what is called IPC classification, which stands for Integrated Food Security Phase Classification.

It has five severity phases:

  • Minimal or none
  • Stressed
  • Crisis
  • Emergency
  • Catastrophe or famine

Zimbabwe is said to be largely in the stressed to emergency phases. It is not certain whether there are any regions in the catastrophe phase as another study is being undertaken.

The study currently being used was conducted in May last year.

Even then, how can half the nation be food insecure?


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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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