EU throws lifeline to urban Zimbabweans struggling to buy food

Many urban households in Zimbabwe are unable to buy basics such as mealie meal, salt and cooking oil. Stock photo.
Many urban households in Zimbabwe are unable to buy basics such as mealie meal, salt and cooking oil. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/photovs

The European Union (EU) will pay $12 (about R178) in monthly cash assistance to urban Zimbabweans struggling to get basic foodstuffs due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The contribution is being made through the EU civil protection and humanitarian aid operations department (ECHO). Recipients will receive the cash via electronic transfers and vouchers enabling them to buy food.

According to the World Food Programme in Zimbabwe, the EU contributed €3m (about R52m) to the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Zimbabwe. The funding will be used to support vulnerable people in urban communities who are struggling to meet their basic food needs due to the pandemic.

There are 2.4 million people in the country’s urban areas struggling to meet basic food needs because of lockdowns to contain the pandemic. Nearly 83% of the country’s urban households are struggling to buy food for their families. Most urban households are unable to buy basics such as mealie meal, salt and cooking oil.

EU ambassador Timo Olkkonen said: “The EU, is committed to working with partners like WFP to bring life-saving assistance to vulnerable populations, most of whom are struggling to make ends meet in these challenging times.

“Our assistance can never cover all those in need. Only sound public social policies and sustainable economic growth based on political and economic reforms can.”

Zimbabwe has been in a level four lockdown for the past six weeks, and recently extended by a further two weeks. Lockdowns imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus have dealt a  severe blow to urban communities.

WFP Zimbabwe country director and representative Francesca Erdelmann said food insecurity in the country had worsened due to lockdown restrictions.

“Urban populations face high living costs to obtain basic food needs, along with other critical items such as rent, water and electricity. We are seeing a 30% increase in the average price of basic food items [maize meal, maize grain and sugar beans] in the first half of 2021 when compared with the second half of 2020. Cash assistance can help to ease the burden for households, providing people with greater autonomy when planning monthly expenses,” said Erdelmann.

WFP is assisting 326,000 people across 23 urban areas and aims to reach up to 500,000 people in Zimbabwe’s urban areas by the end of the year.

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