More troubles ahead. Mayday Mayday Mayday Part Two
More troubles lie ahead. Current food harvests are woefully inadequate. FEWS NET, the international non-government Famine Early Warning Systems Network, in its new April report just out, says food production by rural households in southern Zimbabwe is “next to nothing” this season and they will be suffering what they call the Crisis phase (IPC 3) in food security by July unless meaningful food aid is delivered. This will deteriorate to the Emergency phase (IPC 4 ) in the southern region by October if aid is not found.
At present, southern rural households are already in the Stressed phase (IPC 2) because of high retail maize prices in their cereal-deficit areas.
On the IPC scale – the Richter scale of food shortages – households in the country’s more productive northern areas are food stressed but in the minimal phase so far (IPC 1,) says FEWS NET.
Left, FEWS NET forecasts for the three months to the end of June, right for the three months to the end of September. More longer term mapped forecasts are to be issued later.
Erratic recent rains contributed to this state of affairs, the group says, but the main worry this year is whether “typical assistance” will be available as in previous years to avoid starvation.
The UN World Food Programme, the usual conduit for this aid, has enough on its plate right now – no excuses for the pun – with commitments to the refugee crises in the Middle East and the Mediterranian seabord countries draining the funds of its regular donors.
It seems likely the world humanitarian agencies this time around will not send truckloads of food to Zimbabwe willy nilly, as they have in the past. Aid managers in Harare say what is proposed now is that maize purchases will be subsidised by the U.N. and other agencies and imported by private players, presaged on conditions of fair distribution of the food to the needy and strict rules to stop profiteering by transporters and designated operators. This will also need a top policy decision to suspend the traditional distribution monopoly of the heavily indebted state Grain Marketing Board. It still owes local farmers for grain submitted to it last year.
The official spin doctors blame Western sanctions and drought for the current predicament and say FEWS NET is an American-sponsored regime change organisation. Some of them say dubious U.S. spy satellite images are used for crop forecasts so as to sew gloom and despondency in communities at large.
But the state media this week admitted Zimbabwe will need to to buy and import 700,000 tons of maize to make up for its own shortfall this year. Yet the fiscus doesn’t have the money for all of that, which means outsiders will need to answer the Mayday call for help.
Where there are no food shortages, of course, there is no IPC rating. Where there are no earthquakes there is no Richter scale reading.