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Zimbabwe's food and cholera crisis

Concern's team on the ground is reporting severe deterioration in the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe. This is being exacerbated by several outbreaks of cholera in the country, caused by a severe lack of clean water and sanitation. Reports of over 3,700 deaths with another 79,000 suspected cases are causing serious concern.


Concern’s office in America has recently published a report on the scale of the crisis in Zimbabwe. Read it here.

Preventing cholera

Concern’s team has been responding to this crisis since 14 December and is co-ordinating water, sanitarian and hygiene activities in the town of Chegutu, 110km west of Harare.

In Gokwe North, Gokwe South and Nyanga cholera levels are low. Concern is working in these areas to limit the spread of cholera by using preventative measures. However, in the event of any significant outbreak of cholera, Concern staff will work with UNICEF to distribute cholera kits immediately.

Food shortages

In recent weeks, Concern’s staff have seen a virtual collapse in all public services. With the economy in near meltdown and inflation rampant, food shortages are likely to lead to an emergency situation in the country in the first quarter of 2009. 

It is estimated by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization that Zimbabwe only has 17% of the maize seed needed for this season and only 2.6% of its fertiliser. Recent wheat harvests were only 10% of the country’s requirements. So, there is a huge food deficit expected in 2009.

Crisis situation

“The political situation in the country is stealing the international headlines,” explains Mark Harper, Concern’s Assistant Country Director for Programmes in Zimbabwe, “but this media focus is also masking the very real humanitarian crisis situation – and one which is likely to worsen considerably in the coming months.”

Rising tension

“The situation is critical,” says Harper, “as it is the United Nations who sources the food, and their stocks will run out by January.” This is already leading to some tension on the ground. “At Concern distributions there have been a number of incidents, which is line with increasing lawlessness and desperation for food.”