Impact of COVID-19 on food security in Zimbabwe

COVID-19 has created a severe economic shock, mostly in the form of a loss of income, particularly for the most vulnerable in both rural and urban areas who depend on casual labour, petty trading and other informal activities that are currently affected by the country-wide lockdown.

A national lockdown ordered on March 30 in Zimbabwe to help stem the spread of COVID-19 triggered panic food buying and pushed up prices in the crisis-ridden economy. Access to food to a majority of people in Zimbabwe still remains a big challenge as the country grapples with a drought. The World Health Organization (WHO) projected a worsening situation because of the potential impact of local transmission of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe, which it ranked between “very bad” and “catastrophic”.

More than 80% of the urban population rely on self-employment and income sources like vending, trading and remittances. These income-generating activities are sensitive to the measures put in place to prevent and limit the outbreak of COVID-19, meaning that households dependent on those sources are deprived of potential income. According to the latest Food Price Monitoring and Analysis (FPMA) report of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the price of the staple maize has risen sharply largely over weak production prospects for the 2019/2020 crop, low national reserves and unstable an currency.

In urban areas, the impact of COVID-19 has been particularly profound. The Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) estimates that due to COVID-19, industries – especially tourism and manufacturing – will lay off up to 25% of their formal workforce and 75% of their informal workforce in urban centres.

A recent nationwide Integrated Food Security Phase Classification shows the number of “acutely food insecure” Zimbabweans has risen to 4,3 million from 3,8 million in December 2019. The World Food Programme estimates that food shortages are affecting about 7,7 million people in the country.

The Zimbabwe Chamber of Informal Traders (ZCIHT) stated that 70% of Informal Traders in cities are women and they constitute the majority of traders specializing in fruit and vegetable trade that have been hit hard by shuttered markets. To avert wider and severe desperation some of HOCIC’s food aid distribution programmes are still being carried out to minimise the impact of the pandemic on the poor.

Author: Hubert Bhebhe is the HOCIC Zimbabwe Programmes Coordinator.

Sources: World Food Programme, ZIMFACT, ZNCC, ZCIHT, HOCIC, FPMA

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