USAID Officials Discuss Humanitarian Response

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Significance of declaring a state of emergency:

The disaster declaration by the Government of Zimbabwe is significant because it is a recognition by the government of the gravity of the situation and that “extraordinary measures are necessary to assist and protect the persons affected” as per Zimbabwe’s Civil Protection Act.  In addition, this declaration will allow for timely resource mobilization, as it may unlock additional donor resources to respond to the drought.

USAID does not require governments to declare disasters to provide emergency assistance – we are already providing $35 million in drought response and will reach 600,000 food insecure individuals each month with this assistance, through food rations and cash transfers.

Many other donors, however, rely on the disaster declaration by government as a trigger to mobilize resources to respond to emergencies ­ – a standard practice used around the world.  The Government of Zimbabwe’s Civil Protection Act is the legal document in Zimbabwe, which the President has used to declare a disaster.

The food security situation on the ground: 

According to the Government’s appeal that has just came out, 2,4milliom people, about 26 percent of the rural population in Zimbabwe is currently facing food insecurity.  I have visited some communities recently and have seen how the drought has severely affected them. For example, I have seen the deteriorating livestock conditions, absence of agricultural labor opportunities, a decline in the terms of trade where households are getting less for one cow, and the decreasing value of the rand, which many vulnerable households rely on in the form of remittances.  According to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, which USAID also participated in, over 16,000 cattle have died due to the drought, because of the limited rains, grazing has not been as good as expected. The below normal rains have severely limited the availability of food and water for the cattle.

Promoting resilience:

Food aid is not the solution alone. That is why USAID/Zimbabwe’s food security activities are working to transition assistance from short-term food aid to longer-term developmental food security and increased incomes.  Activities focus on improving the enabling environment for food security; increasing the productivity and profitability of households and micro, small, and medium sized enterprises; and increasing the resilience of vulnerable communities through a variety of activities, including the strengthening of disaster risk reduction structures and the construction of dams, irrigations, and other assets to mitigate the effects of recurrent droughts.   

We recognize, however, that transitioning communities from food aid to sustainable agriculture is a long-term effort, and emergency assistance is still a necessary component of our overall efforts.

With now close to 2.4 million people said to be requiring emergency handout, will U.S. assistance reach everyone?

USAID will be reaching 600,000 food insecure Zimbabweans with emergency assistance through June.   Other donors  ­– including the UN, DFID, and the EU – are collectively reaching hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans as well.   We are all working collaboratively to respond to the drought situation as it evolves and to meet the food needs of as many Zimbabweans as possible.

USAID presence in Zimbabwe:

USAID is providing humanitarian assistance in 18 of the most food insecure districts across the country.  As a result of increasing food insecurity, we are scaling up to meet the food needs of additional people within these districts, and there is the potential to expand into additional districts as resources permit.

USAID is working in an additional 12 districts when you consider our ongoing food security activities under Feed the Future.

In fact, USAID is present almost all over the country.  For more than 30 years, USAID has provided the people of Zimbabwe over $2.6 billion to increase food security, support economic growth, improve health systems and services, and advance a more democratic system of governance.

In the areas that you are operating what kind of work are you doing in the communities?

In the 18 districts where we are providing humanitarian assistance, USAID is working to meet the immediate food needs of the most vulnerable people while also building their resilience against future climatic shocks, such as drought.

USAID, through the World Food Programme (WFP), is providing food rations and cash transfers in the most food insecure districts.  This emergency assistance aims to maintain or improve the nutritional status of vulnerable groups, save lives, reduce suffering, and lessen the impact of the drought on overall food security.

USAID also funds WFP’s Productive Asset Creation activity, which provides food rations or cash transfers in exchange for participation in the creation or rehabilitation of community assets, such as irrigation systems and dams, to improve infrastructure and livelihoods for the future.

USAID has additional ongoing activities, ENSURE and Amalima, totaling $100 million over five years, to address the underlying causes of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition in rural areas.  Through these activities, USAID provides supplementary food assistance for pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of 2 to improve child health and nutrition to reduce stunting.  USAID also helps communities repair and create productive assets, paying workers for their labor.  Over the past year, with USAID support, communities have constructed or rehabilitated more than 30 assets, including dip tanks, irrigation schemes, dams, and community gardens, helping build their resilience to future climatic shocks.  The entire community also benefits from health and nutrition training, improved water and sanitation systems, and training to promote greater agricultural productivity and incomes.

Apart from the emergency situation what long-term programs are you working on?

As mentioned above, USAID has additional ongoing activities, ENSURE and Amalima, totaling $100 million over five years, to address the underlying causes of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition in rural areas.  Through these activities, USAID provides supplementary food assistance for pregnant and lactating women and children under the age of 2 to improve child health and nutrition to reduce stunting.  USAID also helps communities repair and create productive assets, paying workers for their labor.  Over the past year, with USAID support, communities have constructed or rehabilitated more than 30 assets, including dip tanks, irrigation schemes, dams, and community gardens, helping build their resilience to future climatic shocks.  The entire community also benefits from health and nutrition training, improved water and sanitation systems, and training to promote greater agricultural productivity and incomes.

USAID also has two activities under President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative, valued at $20 million over five years, which aim to reduce rural poverty and increase incomes and food security through increased agricultural production, productivity, and market linkages for small-scale crop farmers and dairy and beef producers.

USAID’s assistance includes a robust portfolio that includes health interventions, including HIV and AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis, and maternal and child health; as well as activities to promote water, sanitation and hygiene; youth employment; and economic governance.