Context of the Crisis
Across Zimbabwe, 7 million people in urban and rural areas are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, compared to 5.5 million in August 2019. Since the launch of the Revised Humanitarian Appeal in August 2019, circumstances for millions of Zimbabweans have worsened. Drought and crop failure, exacerbated by macro-economic challenges and austerity measures, have directly affected vulnerable households in both rural and urban communities. Inflation continues to erode purchasing power and affordability of food and other essential goods is a daily challenge. The delivery of health care, clean water and sanitation, and education has been constrained and millions of people are facing challenges to access vital services.
There are now more than 4.3 million people severely food insecure in rural areas in Zimbabwe, according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, undertaken in February 2020. In addition, 2.2 million people in urban areas, are “cereal food insecure,” according to the most recent Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) analysis.1 Farmers are suffering the consequences of consecutive drought conditions, while households reliant on livelihoods have also been hard-hit. In January 2020, drought-related cattle deaths totalled 44,985, according to the Livestock Production Department of the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water, and Rural Resettlement. Community watering points for livestock and agriculture have dried-up in many places, while pasture has been depleted, resulting in increased movement of livestock searching for water and grazing. Risks of outbreaks of livestock diseases remain high.
Recognising the severity and complexity of the situation, the Government of Zimbabwe has developed a domestic and international appeal. This Government appeal for multisectoral assistance addresses humanitarian needs as well as medium- and longer-term measures to build resilience and recovery, in particular for the agricultural sector. Support to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic is also requested. The Humanitarian Response Plan complements and supports the Government, focusing on immediate life-saving and life-sustaining needs in the most vulnerable communities.
Erratic and late 2019/2020 rains forebode the possibility of a second poor harvest. Early indications point to a reduction in area planted to maize compared to 2018/2019, according to the first round of the Crop and Livestock Assessment. The Water Requirements Satisfaction Index (WRSI)—an indicator of crop performance based on the availability of water during a growing season—ranged from mediocre in the central and western districts to poor/failure in the southern areas of the country in December 2019. Despite rainfall resuming during the second week of December and into January 2020, the area planted for the 2019/2020 season is expected to remain below average, especially considering poor access to affordable cropping inputs and presence of African armyworm and Fall armyworm across the provinces. At the farm level, casual labour opportunities (land preparation, planting and weeding) are being impacted by the poor distribution of the 2019/2020 rains and the macroeconomic environment Nutritional needs remain high with over 1.1 million children and women requiring nutrition assistance. Approximately 95,000 children are acutely malnourished (3.6 per cent of children under age 5) and require immediate life-saving nutrition treatment. The continuous increase in food insecurity, coupled with high food prices, may negatively affect the nutritional needs—particularly of children and pregnant and lactating women—as the lean season is expected to extend beyond March 2020. Diarrhoeal cases due to deteriorating access to clean water and sanitation may also exacerbate the situation, as these are an immediate cause of under-nutrition. Maternal undernutrition increases the probability of low birth weight, which in turn increases the probability of neonatal deaths.
At least 4 million vulnerable Zimbabweans are facing challenges accessing primary health care and drought conditions trigger several health risks. Extreme weather conditions can increase vulnerability to infectious diseases, including vaccine-preventable and vector-borne illnesses. The risk of diarrhoeal disease outbreaks, including cholera and typhoid, has also risen. The difficult economic environment has had a negative impact on the health delivery system, particularly from the last quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2020.
The capacity of disease surveillance is not sufficient at all levels and this is increasing the risk of delayed identification and response to disease outbreaks. The capacity of laboratories to detect priority disease conditions is also inadequate due to a shortage of reagents and equipment.
Decreasing availability of safe water, sanitation and hygiene have heightened the risk of communicable disease outbreaks for 3.7 million vulnerable people. The forecasted normal to below-normal rainfall season in 2019/2020 may have negative impacts on water availability, in a context where water reservoirs were already depleted by the 2018/2019 drought. In rural areas, only 30 per cent of the nearly 55,600 water sources tracked by the rural water information management system (RWIMS), have water and are functional and protected. In urban areas, electricity and chemical supply challenges have led to a significant decrease in piped water supply and many people are relying on unsafe sources. As a result, people—mostly women and girls—are having to travel longer distances to access clean water, exposing them to risks affecting their safety and taking time away from girls’ education.
Some 1.2 million school-age children are facing challenges accessing education. The number of school drop-outs—especially among children with disabilities, girls, orphans and vulnerable children—is expected to have risen since the July 2019 ZIMVAC recorded a drop-out rate of 17 per cent. The deteriorating macro-economic situation, underfunding of the sector, disruptions to school feeding, and climate-induced drought are negatively impacting the well-being and protection of learners and educators, the quality of teaching and learning in schools, and the overall functioning of the system. As the financial capacity of parents and guardians worsens, lack of operational resources in schools is adversely affecting the provision of teaching and learning materials, safe water and sanitation facilities.
The drought and economic situation have heightened protection risks, particularly for women and children. An estimated 1.2 million children in urgent need of protection support and data from the Victim Friendly System indicates a 20 per cent increase in cases recorded. This includes a 24 per cent increase in reported child abuse cases and a 20 per cent increase in reported child sexual abuse for 2019. According to the Legal Aid Directorate of Zimbabwe, Quarter 3 of 2019 saw the highest caseload of children in contact with the law needing legal aid, mainly due to an increasing number of children living on the streets trying to survive by committing petty crimes. Children with disabilities face neglect and lack of access to basic survival and protection necessities due to the crisis. At the same time, at least 1.3 million people—mostly women and girls—at risk of gender-based violence (GBV) in 2020. Some 39 per cent of women in Zimbabwe have experienced physical violence since age 15, according to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (2019) (4 per cent increase compared with ZDHS 2015). From January to November 2019, the Health Management Information System recorded 9,347 cases of sexual violence reported to health facilities, with only 28 per cent of SGBV survivors reporting within 72 hours. Multisectoral GBV service providers have recorded a 20 per cent increase in cases during the fourth quarter of 2019. GBV remains largely under-reported due to a number of factors, such as economic dependence on the perpetrator, fear of stigma and unavailability of economic means to reach multisectoral services. Women and girls are disproportionately affected by the protection consequences of climate change and economic hardship, and those with disabilities are three times more prone to GBV and harmful practices.
A year after Cyclone Idai hit Zimbabwe, 128,270 people remain in need of humanitarian assistance across the 12 affected districts in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces, particularly in the districts of Chimanimani (14,839 individuals), Chipinge (63,245 individuals), Buhera (8,565 individuals). The majority of IDPs (97 per cent) are residing with host communities, with a small proportion (3 per cent) seeking shelter in four established IDP camps, accommodating 224 households (953 individuals) in Chimanimani.2 Out of the 25,160 households in need of shelter support, only 3,000 are currently receiving it (in the form of transitional or permanent shelters), and there is a significant number of households in host communities still in critical need of transitional shelters. At least 87 per cent of IDPs in Chimanimani, Chipinge and Buhera districts have returned to their original homes which were not properly repaired. In January 2020, Manicaland province received fresh violent windstorms, significantly increasing damage to houses already impacted caused by Cyclone Idai. Households which only received emergency shelter (tarpaulins) are now uninhabitable, while others are staying in makeshift structures. Relocation of IDPs is not feasible in the short term and it is anticipated that IDPs will remain in the camps for the next 6 to 12 months.
There are 21,328 refugees and asylum seekers in Zimbabwe who need international protection and multi sectoral life-saving assistance to enable them to live in safety and dignity. This includes 14,782 persons residing in Tongogara camp in Manicaland province, and 6,546 Mozambican asylum seekers profiled but not yet biometrically registered who are living among Zimbabwean host communities in Manicaland province. Displacement from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) into neighbouring countries is expected to continue, with a projected arrival rate into Zimbabwe of 200 persons per month.