High profile visit to UN supported drought response programmes

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Bulawayo, 19 March 2016 – A two-day field visit to Matabeleland North to appraise humanitarian and development projects and to raise awareness on the seriousness of the El Niño induced drought in the province has been concluded today.

The visit led by the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Bishow Parajuli was comprised of officials from the Office of the President and Cabinet; the United Nations Agencies mainly the WFP Representative, Eddie Rowe and FAO; Diplomatic Corps (led by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps in Zimbabwe and Ambassador of DRC, Mwampanga Mwana Nanga; Ambassadors of Angola, Botswana and Namibia) and the Media.

The delegation observed first-hand humanitarian relief efforts and projects mainstreamed to early recovery and resilience building to ensure linkages with ongoing development efforts in the drought-affected areas.

The field visit mainly focused on three hard hit districts: Bubi, Lupane and Binga Districts. In Lupane, the delegation observed that despite the late onset and patchy rainfall, farmers encouraged by the District Administrator, Mr. Jussah have been tackling the drought by replanting three to four times. The farming households, under the guidance of the Lupane District Administrator have been destocking without losing their asset base or devaluing their livestock from cattle to goats to cope with the persistent dry spell. This has showcased the ingenuity and resilience of the local administration and the affected population.

While in Lupane, the delegation visited rehabilitation efforts funded by European Union and technical support from FAO and LEAD. The delegation visited a borehole in Mkhosi, where the community has access to clean water and about 2,000 cattle are serviced. Prior to rehabilitation the community had travelled 12kms to fetch water and had been filling the 20,000 litre dip tank with water from the nearby Shangani River. With the rehabilitation of the borehole within a 200 meter radius, the community has now regular access to safe water. In addition, the proximity of this borehole eases access for livestock to the much-required dipping services.  The rehabilitation of the borehole has had a positive impact in reducing the number of absenteeism at the nearby schools, as the elderly do not have to rely on the young to pump water straight into the dip tank. Dipping sessions and total number of animals dipped have also improved. The delegation had also the chance to visit Matshakayile feedlot which is supporting a total of 1,770 households. This feedlot is key to ensuring that cattle have enough food particularly during the current drought season. 

As part of the on-going development in the districts, UNDP together with the Ministry of Small and Medium Enterprises and Cooperative Development (MSMECD) is supporting Savings and Credit Cooperatives Societies (SACCOS). The delegation visited Masithuthukeni SACCO, whose aim is to mobilise savings to increase access to micro credit for its members. As at December 2015, the total group fund had risen to USD 12,310 generated from savings and interests from internal loans.

In Binga, the delegation observed that the situation is dire and the gravity of the drought severely affected farming and fishing communities. The farming communities have lost their harvest to drought and had no chance of replanting. The situation in Binga District calls for an increased and continued humanitarian assistance, including food, nutrition, school meal, animal feed and water.

The Chininga dam, which was constructed under the WFP-funded Food-for-Assets programme was one of the projects visited by the delegation.  At least 300 households (approximately 1,500 beneficiaries) are benefiting from this programme, and the dam is supplying them with water for horticultural crop production and for domestic use. In addition, 1,500 cattle are accessing drinking water from the same dam.

The delegation was also briefed by the Country Director of Save the Children, Brian Hunter and visited a clinic in Simatelele to observe how the health service is coping with the drought situation. The Simatelele Clinic supported by Save the Children and the United Nations agencies (UNFPA, UNAIDS, UNICEF, UN Women, WHO and the World Bank) is tackling an increasing cases of malnutrition (regularly screening over 18,000 children monthly out of a total 22,000 children). Working through the Ministry of Health and Child Care, the initiative plays a catalytic role in supporting the Government to address malnutrition and accelerate progress towards achieving Maternal & Child Health and HIV goals. The clinic showed that due to the prevailing unprecedented drought situation, several hard hit localities have become hot-spots of high malnutrition. In this regard, the UN would like to appeal to the local administrations and the media to report on this localized high level of malnutrition rates regularly to garner timely national and international response. Equally important, there is an urgent need for school meals intervention as students in schools such as the Simatelele primary and secondary have witnessed dropouts and scanty attendance. Local Administration, Schools management and students consulted attributed the sporadic missing of classes to hunger.

The delegation also visited Kanonge Fishing Cooperative, a pilot Kapenta (small fish) Fishing Livelihood Project. The cooperative has a total membership of 13 members (including 6 females and 3 youths). Since 2014 the cooperative has harvested Kapenta fish realising revenue of more than USD 15,000.

The visited projects – combine humanitarian, recovery and development - would ensure that these communities are resilient to climate shocks, such as the current drought which has affected the entire country and left 2.8 million people food insecure.

To date, the UN agencies - with support from development partners and in cooperation with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - have reached more than 1 million affected people and generated USD 76 million in funding from partners, including US/USAID, UK/DFID, EU/ECHO, Canada, Switzerland and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund. Following the Government’s declaration of a State of Disaster on 3 February 2016 and the updated ZimVAC report of recent weeks, the UN and its humanitarian partners have been further refining the joint humanitarian response plan so as  to address needs in the following areas: agriculture; food; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); nutrition; child protection; and education.

Guided by the updated joint humanitarian response plan, final draft of which will be presented during the Multi-Stakeholder Consultative Meeting on 23 March 2016 in Harare, the UN agencies are committed to continue to work with the Government and development partners to scale-up relief activities to reach those who are food insecure. In reaching the affected populations, coordination of humanitarian efforts undertaken by the Government and the international humanitarian community will be critical so as to optimize resources and avoid duplication.

The UN System in Zimbabwe has been – and will continue to be – a partner of the Government in supporting the most vulnerable people in the country.