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UNICEF Calls For United Effort Against Child Food Poverty

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UNICEF Calls For United Effort Against Child Food Poverty



Food insecurity among Zimbabwean children could further deteriorate in 2024 with the El Nino induced drought. This calls for a stakeholders’ united force to mitigate the severity of the drought, which threatens hard hit areas. Children suffer the brunt of poverty.
With 580,000 young children in Zimbabwe living in severe food poverty, community initiatives are urged to assist in the provision of food.
UNICEF calls on activities to improve children’s diet diversity and prevent malnutrition. The need to scale up funding grows.
Globally, around 181 million children under 5 years of age are in dire need of food assistance. This translates to one in four children experiencing severe child food poverty.
UNICEF peals for US$84.9 million to mitigate against the El Nino induced drought in Zimbabwe.
With 50 percent more likely to experience wasting, malnutrition becomes a condition posing risk to the affected children.
Among these, 580,000 are Zimbabwean children, a number that could rise with the current El Nino induced drought.
Well-fed children from early childhood have better outcomes, as compared to children who face stagnant growth.
Thousands of children aged between six months and two years do not have access to the minimum nutritious foods in the development stages.
The long-term impacts of COVID-19 on child diet quality are still being felt. Compounded with multiple health outbreaks, including cholera, measles, flu, the impacts of the climate crisis, and rising food prices pose a threat to marginalised children from poor families.
These factors are all driving child food poverty in Zimbabwe, leading to prostitution of children as young as 12 in some areas, both urban and rural.
“Food insecurity among Zimbabwean children could further deteriorate in 2024 with the El Nino induced drought that has caused above-average temperatures and below average rainfall, with a ‘historic’ mid-season dry spell over the 2023/2024 agricultural season,” said Dr Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF Representative in Zimbabwe.

“It is urgent to address child food poverty today to avoid more children being pushed into a life-threatening status of severe malnutrition.”
According to the global UNICEF report, children who consume two or fewer of the eight defined food groups are considered to be in severe child food poverty. Children who consume three or four food groups per day are experiencing moderate food poverty, while children who are fed five or more of the eight defined food groups are not considered to be in food poverty.
In Zimbabwe, less than one in ten children consume a daily diet containing five or more food groups, with the frequency required to ensure optimal growth and development.
The UNICEF report highlights a concerning link – that children living in severe food poverty are up to 50 percent more likely to suffer from life-threatening malnutrition.
In-line with Zimbabwe’s Nutrition Narrative, the Government of Zimbabwe with UNICEF and other partners, is implementing activities, under the Multi-Sectorial Food and Nutrition Security Strategy, to improve children’s diet diversity and prevent all forms of malnutrition. These activities focus on making nutrient-dense foods more available and accessible at household level through a network of community-based support programmes to caregivers known as Care Groups, with links to relevant services in health, water, sanitation and hygiene, social protection, and agriculture.
Dr Alipui: “To scale up community-based nutrition activities, additional support is needed from government, development and humanitarian partners, national and international civil society and non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.”
Community-based nutrition programs addressing child food poverty among the children of Zimbabwe are essential to deliver nutritious, safe, and affordable foods and essential nutrition services for children throughout the country.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) reported in 2023 that more households were food insecure.
These households continued to rely on casual labor, locally known as maricho (40%] as the most important source of income, followed by food crop production/sales
(25%), vegetable production and sales (22%), remittances within Zimbabwe (21%) and petty trade (14%)
With marginalised households living on a dollar a day, casual work, also depending on rainfall, the sector is constrained.
With maricho, one is paid immediately after work, making the food consumption pattern immediate. This is the sector most hardly hit by poor rainfalls.
Families living in the Lowveld rely on small grains production, animal husbandry, and mostly goats. Seasonal work from sugar plantations supplements income for most households.
Irrigation for small-scale sugar cane plantations holders is giving better outcomes with diverse income sources.
In Mudzi, communal farmers meet most of their food needs through own crop production. Poor households rely on gold panning, petty trade, and maricho.
For Gokwe north and south, 240,506 families are centered primarily on growing maize for food and cotton for cash.
Animal husbandry (namely cattle, goats, and poultry) is for affording families. Poor farmers grow mainly cotton for resell and cereals for family consumption. Poor families usually have donkeys for draught power. They generate income through casual labor, or through small-scale gold panning,
A total of 139,732 families were assessed from Hurungwe, Kariba, and Binga districts.
Livelihoods centered on production of maize for household consumption and tobacco for some Hurungwe families. For the poor households, beer brewing for community consumption brings cash.
The Midlands Province sees gold panning being a livelihood. However, high migration in search of gold carries a risk, being away from families, sexually transmitted infections, and fights for mining claims.
Despite the good prices fetched from gold, this is an area of chronic poverty and food insecurity.
For districts with mixed farming like Mashonaland East, Manicaland, poverty levels are not as severe as the dry regions as market gardening brings ready cash at short intervals.
The Zunde RaMambo concept, a time immemorial food security initiative, is currently under threats in many districts as the drought resulted in little or no harvests.
The Zunde RaMambo is a traditional Zimbabwean concept that emphasizes community support and social responsibility. It involves individuals bringing a portion of their harvest or working in the chief’s field to support vulnerable members of the community, such as: the aged, the sick, orphans, and disabled individuals.
This practice ensures that those who are unable to care for themselves are provided for, promoting social cohesion, solidarity, and collective well-being.
Zunde RaMambo is a remarkable example of indigenous knowledge and community-led initiatives that foster food security, social protection, and inclusivity.

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