The European Union (EU) on Tuesday announced that it had contributed 3 million euros (about 3.5 million U.S. dollars) to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in Zimbabwe to support highly vulnerable people living in urban communities who are struggling to meet basic food needs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a statement from the EU said the contribution, made through the bloc’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Department, would come in the form of cash assistance used to support beneficiaries of WFP’s Urban Social Assistance and Resilience Building Program.
Recipients will receive 12 U.S. dollars per person, per month via either e-voucher or Western Union cash transfer – to help cover basic food needs such as maize meal, cooking oil and salt.
EU ambassador Timo Olkkonen said his organization was committed to working with partners like WFP to bring life-saving assistance to vulnerable populations, most of whom are struggling to make ends meet in challenging times.
“But our assistance can never cover all those in need, only sound public social policies and sustainable economic growth based on political and economic reforms can,” he said.
WFP Zimbabwe Country Director and Representative Francesca Erdelmann said the already dire food insecurity situation in urban and peri-urban areas had been further exacerbated by restrictive measures implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19.
This had resulted in the loss of urban livelihoods and income, she said.
“Urban populations face high living costs to obtain basic food needs, along with other critical items such as rent, water and electricity. We are seeing a 30 percent increase in the average price (in Zimbabwe dollars) of basic food items (maize meal, maize grain and sugar beans) in the first half of 2021 when compared with the second half of 2020,” she said.
“Cash assistance can help to ease the burden for households, providing people with greater autonomy when planning monthly expenses,” she said.
According to the 2020 Urban Livelihoods Assessment, 2.4 million urban dwellers are estimated to be cereal insecure.
The findings, released by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) in March 2021, show increasing food insecurity of vulnerable households by 12 percent since 2019.
This is due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown measures that have resulted in the widespread loss of urban livelihoods.
WFP is assisting 326,000 people, based on available resources, and aims to reach up to 500,000 people with support from its partners.
A total of 88 million U.S. dollars is needed to support growing humanitarian needs in urban locations, WFP said. Enditem