UN launches $429M aid appeal for drought-hit Zimbabwe

The United Nations has launched a US$429 million aid appeal to feed 3.1 million Zimbabweans needing urgent food aid after the worst drought in 40 years.

The UN’s Zimbabwe drought response will run from April 2024 to March 2025, and will target people in 46 most vulnerable districts, according to Edward Kallon, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator. He said the intervention will include livestock production, food assistance, cash transfers, and the construction of solarised boreholes and water pans. A total of 7.6 million Zimbabweans, about half of the population, needs “lifesaving and life-sustaining humanitarian assistance and protection support, as well as livelihood support”, Kallon says. Of these, 3.1 million need urgent help.

“We have ensured that this appeal is prioritised and principled, and we are confident that the activities planned are the most urgently needed to deliver immediate relief to the people who need it the most,” Kallon said.

Maize output for the 2023-24 season is estimated at 634,699 tons, down 72% from last year, according to the latest government crop assessment report. “Statistically, the season had the latest and driest start to a summer season in 40 years,” the government said.  

In April, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a state of disaster. He said responding to the drought, would cost up to US$2 billion. This is a total estimated bill that includes food aid, importing grain, expanding irrigation to plant a bigger winter crop and paying grain farmers.

Drought has slashed harvests in Malawi and Zambia, which like Zimbabwe have declared a state of disaster. Zimbabwe planted 1.78 million hectares of maize this season, 12% lower than the previous season, the government says. The country consumes 2.2 million tonnes of maize each year, with 1.8 million tonnes used for food and 400,000 tonnes for livestock feed. To bridge the gap, private grain millers plan to import 1.4 million tonnes of maize by July next year.