U.S. Pledges $60 Million in Food Aid to Zimbabwe as ‘Lean Season’ Approaches
As Zimbabwe battles famine and COVID-19, the U.S. government has pledged $60 million in food aid to the country as it faces a particularly dire “lean season.” The money will go to the World Food Program’s 2020-21 Lean Season Food Assistance program in Zimbabwe.
The food shortage is largely due to a drastic drop in corn production that has affected more than 4.3 million Zimbabweans in rural areas and 2.2 million people in urban areas, according to recent studies cited by News24, a news channel. More than 14.4 million people live in Zimbabwe, which borders South Africa to the north.
In response to the food shortage, the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority also recently announced that it will allow combine harvesters, agricultural tractors and livestock such as pigs, goats and sheep to be imported duty-free.
The country’s worst food crisis in a decade has been exacerbated by several factors, including Cyclone Idai, which caused catastrophic damage last year; the region’s worst drought in 35 years; and the pandemic that has sickened more than 1,000 Zimbabweans as of mid-July. Many believe the actual number of COVID-19 cases is much higher, because the country has a shortage of test kits.
The U.S. assistance will begin in August and is expected to help feed almost 1 million people until April 2021, the U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe said in a statement. The donation complements earlier U.S. contributions totaling more than $18 million to bolster the country’s response to COVID-19. Lean season typically is felt in Zimbabwe during the months before the annual harvests of March and April.
U.S. aid to Zimbabwe, stretching back 30 years, totals more than $3.2 billion. Besides boosting food security and fighting COVID-19, the money has been used to strengthen economic resilience, popularize democratic governance, and battle other health and humanitarian crises.
The latest influx coincides with news that Zimbabwe’s government is reviewing COVID-19 lockdown regulations amid a spike in confirmed cases.
“Although there is a visible spike in the number of positive cases, largely due to returnees, we shall continue to strengthen our preventive measures as well as our testing and contact tracing capacity,” President Emmerson Mnangagwa said.