Has Zimbabwe electricity

Hunger crisis in southern Africa : How the supply situation in Zimbabwe is worsening

The situation is so serious that it is difficult to even help. In Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, the power is now out for up to 20 hours a day. Only a few hours of energy come from the ailing grid at night. Long queues in front of shops and petrol stations, up to seven hours for 20 liters of petrol, characterize the picture. This is what Regina Feindt, Country Director for Zimbabwe at Welthungerhilfe, reports. “It makes our work immensely difficult,” she says. “We are experiencing the worst hunger crisis in Zimbabwe in the last 15 to 20 years. The situation has worsened considerably recently, ”said Feindt. The country's strategic reserves have been used up. She also says: "Zimbabwe is not an isolated case at the moment."

Just last week, the UN World Food Program (WFP) warned that 45 million people in southern Africa are at risk of acute famine. Hundreds of millions of euros would currently be needed. "If we don't get the funds we need, we have no choice but to provide less to the less needy," warns WFP Regional Director Lola Castro. One of the countries with the most serious problems is Zimbabwe.

More than half of the 14 million inhabitants do not know where to get their next meal. "There is a risk of a dramatic deterioration in the nutritional situation," says Bettina Lüscher, spokeswoman for the WFP. Support from aid organizations must be strengthened and expanded.

Creeping crisis

The crisis in Zimbabwe built up for a long time and was almost creeping, so international attention remained low. Hyperinflation is crippling the economy of the desperately poor country. The Zimbabwean dollar, which plunged into inflation a decade ago, will continue to lose value immensely after its reintroduction in 2019. The infrastructure in the transport and energy sectors has long been considered ailing.

There are now regular bottlenecks and interruptions in the electricity and water supply. Even in cities, two million people no longer have access to clean water. In the ranking of the Human Development Index, a development ranking, the country only ranks 156 out of 189.

There are also enormous drought and extreme weather conditions. The country had to do without sufficient rainfall for several years. According to WFP spokeswoman Lüscher, it is the worst drought in decades, the grain production in 2019 was half of the usual. Extreme weather such as cyclone Idai in March 2019 caused enormous damage. This only increases hunger.

Currently, nearly 5.5 million people in rural areas and around 2.2 million people in cities depend on food and humanitarian aid. Inflation does not stop at staple food prices either. Bread costs 20 times as much as it did six months ago. "Some of the prices are only valid for hours," says Feindt. Infectious diseases are also rampant. There are typhoid cases all over the country, says Feindt. Cholera has also occurred repeatedly in the past, but an outbreak has recently not been confirmed.

Former hope

Zimbabwe was once the beacon of hope for development in southern Africa. The land was considered the granary of the region and was blessed with rich mineral resources. Nevertheless, under Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe slid into a permanent economic crisis, paralyzed by corruption and mismanagement. Thousands of large farmers were expropriated, especially in the 1990s. The long-term dictator himself liked to blame foreign sanctions for the situation in the country.

After nearly four decades, the dictator was ousted from office by Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2017. But the situation has not improved under his successor. While the economy continues to stagnate, security forces brutally suppress protests and shoot at demonstrators. At least twelve people died in January 2019 in demonstrations against the rapidly rising prices and the situation in the country. Mnangagwa blames foreign countries for the unrest - in the style of his predecessor.

The WFP now wants to solve the most pressing problem: hunger. It has just doubled the number of people to be helped in Zimbabwe to 4.1 million people. It has to bring 200,000 tons of food to Zimbabwe by the middle of the year. The overland route makes transport difficult. "We urgently need money to be able to carry out our relief operations beyond February," said Lüscher. Another $ 205 million would be needed by the end of June 2020.

The FDP in the Bundestag is now calling for rapid help. "With the current drought and the impending hunger crisis, we have to provide humanitarian aid," says Ulrich Lechte, member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag and head of the United Nations, International Organizations and Globalization subcommittee. "Unfortunately, even under President Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe is still strongly influenced by the authoritarian political style of the late former President Robert Mugabe," Lechte criticizes. Long-term aid must therefore be linked to conditions: the implementation of political reforms.

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