With nearly 25% of Zimbabwe’s population at risk of starvation, the country faces one of its most devastating droughts in history. Attributed to the El Nino weather phenomenon, Zimbabwe has pleaded to local charities and foreign governments to help them raise over $1.5 billion US dollars to help save their countrymen.
Impact of the Drought
Originally, the Zimbabwean government estimated that up to 3 million people were being affected by the drought, which brought widespread hunger, economic hardship, crop failure, and livestock loss. This drought is the worst drought the region has seen in more than two decades.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s vice-president, reported that the southern regions of the country were most affected and tens of thousands of cattle have died, boreholes have dried up, and the dam level is quickly falling. “There is a threat to human and animal life as safe water, irrigation water and drinking water sources for animals are increasingly drying up”, he told the Guardian.
Food and water are not the only things impacted by the drought. Zimbabwe’s biggest hydro power plant, Kariba, has already cut back electricity generation by nearly 62%. The economy is also suffering as mineral commodity prices continue to fall.
With the southern areas being most affected, the required funds will be focused on providing import of food and repair of irrigation equipment across the country to help boost the economic devastation. In addition, focusing on providing food and grain to the area to help boost the farmland, provide immediate sustainability, and help battle hunger, is a main priority for the relief fund. Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira informed the Herald newspaper, “government stocks of maize, the staple food, were 91,326 tonnes as of March 10 – enough to last three months.”
The Birthday Bash
Not everyone seems to be suffering from this year’s drought, though. Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean President heralded his 92nd birthday by hosting a party that cost nearly $1 million dollars. Organized by his supporters, many have criticized the leader for his lavish party. Particularly the ZANU-PF party, whose leaders have been jostling for power over his succession.
Mugabe’s birthday parties have long been known for an annual pilgrimage for his loyalists and those seeking favors from him. Even though this year’s party was held despite the increased risk of starvation for so many of his countrymen, many school children, foreign diplomats, government ministers and security chiefs still attended the party to show their support.
While Zimbabwe continues to struggle with drought, the government has made progress to help mediate the long term effect and the immediate need to provide food and amenities to the people. Recently, the Zimbabwe’s Treasury announced that it has released $1 million dollars to help aid the distribution and logistics of delivering grain to the region. Prisca Mupfumira said “they are leaving no stone unturned and this means that by next week, things should start moving smoothly in the distribution of grain to our people who are in need of food assistance.”