Climatic shocks and a deteriorating economic environment have left almost 7 million people in Zimbabwe in need of humanitarian assistance.
The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to reduced income and food sources, and inability to access basic commodities among the rural population.
A devastating drought in 2018 led to a massive crop failure. At the same time, erratic and inadequate rainfall in 2020 exacerbated an already dire situation for the rural population, leaving Zimbabwe as one of the 4 countries in the world suffering most from food shortages. It is estimated that in 2021 3.4 million people in rural areas and 2.4 million people in urban areas will be facing high levels of acute food insecurity.
As of February 2021, 33,556 people remain internally displaced in camps and host communities. Following cyclone Idai, which struck the country in 2019, 871 people are still living in 4 camps under serious protection and health risks. In January 2021, cyclone Eloise hit southern Africa causing flash floods in south-eastern Zimbabwe, destroying crops and killing at least 3 people.
Until late February 2021, Zimbabwe had confirmed over 36,000 coronavirus cases and over 1,500 deaths, with 85% of these cases occurring in the provinces of Harare, Bulawayo, Matabeleland South, Midlands and Manicaland. With an escalating malaria outbreak and over 1.3 million people in the country living with HIV, the coronavirus pandemic poses another big health risk to the population. Access to essential health services has decreased due to lack of health workers, health workers in isolation/quarantine, lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), and user fees in health facilities.
Over 21,000 refugees in Zimbabwe, mostly from Mozambique and a few from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, require food, shelter, education, and protection assistance.
In 2020, the EU allocated €14.2 million in humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe, mainly to address the ongoing food shortages in the country. EU funding is helping provide food assistance to people in need in rural areas, as well as those in highly vulnerable urban areas, both groups suffering from the socio-economic effect of combined drought, the economic situation and the coronavirus pandemic.
Assistance also aims at supporting vulnerable migrant returnees. Following tropical cyclone Eloise, the EU provided an additional €100,000 to the Red Cross to assist those affected.
Part of the EU support goes to education in emergencies and to disaster preparedness, the latter in hazard-prone areas. Activities include support to schools, communities and institutions to strengthen their preparedness capacity.
While focusing on immediate relief assistance to the most vulnerable, the EU’s humanitarian aid in Zimbabwe also provides agricultural support to families who rely on subsistence farming but live in drought-affected areas.
EU partners in Zimbabwe are stepping up their efforts to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, adapting their projects to reduce the spread of the virus while still delivering much-needed aid. They are also undertaking activities on coronavirus prevention and control, information dissemination campaigns, distribution of PPE, promotion of access to water and hygiene, and organising hygiene awareness sessions for households.
EU assistance places a particular emphasis on strengthening the resilience of the most vulnerable communities to mitigate the impact of food insecurity and its consequences. To this end, EU humanitarian and development assistance work hand in hand.