Five million Zimbabweans relying on food aid – Oxfam appeals for Australians to help

Emergencies, Media Releases article written on the 23 Jan 2009

Five million Zimbabweans relying on food aid – Oxfam appeals for Australians to help

With more than half of Zimbabwe’s population now dependent on food aid, Oxfam Australia is making a fresh appeal for donations to fund its work in the country.

Five million Zimbabweans currently rely on food handouts, and around one million people who would benefit from receiving food aid may miss out this month because agencies delivering the food have insufficient funding.

Oxfam Australia’s Zimbabwe Coordinator Paul Davenport said Zimbabweans are going hungry after several years of failed harvests and a serious shortage of seeds and fertilizers.

“It’s likely that this year’s harvest will be even worse than last year’s, and food shortages could continue into next year,” Mr Davenport said.

“The lack of food means people are left weak, which makes them even more vulnerable to the cholera outbreak which has now killed more than 2,000 people.”

Oxfam’s work includes:
• Together with the UN World Food Programme, helping to feed more than 253,000 people in three districts in central Zimbabwe
• Distributing vital drought resistant seed to 16,000 households.
• Responding to the cholera outbreak by providing clean water and sanitation systems, and soap and disinfectant to 620,000 people.

In particular, Oxfam Australia needs extra funding to help respond to chronic food shortages in Binga, in Zimbabwe’s north, that have forced many people to depend on wild roots, such as cassava, for food, despite their high levels of toxicity.
“Desperation has also led some people in this area to eat animals dying from anthrax,” Mr Davenport said. “As a result, some people have died, and others have been hospitalised.”

Oxfam is also calling on governments in developed countries, including Australia, to step up their aid funding for Zimbabwe.

“We welcome the Australian Government’s decision to provide $6 million food aid for Zimbabwe last year. But the UN World Food Programme is still facing a $65 million shortfall for its work in Zimbabwe until the end of March,” Mr Davenport said.

“Our staff in Zimbabwe are reporting that people are going for days without meals. In cholera treatment centres, patients aren’t receiving any regular food, which is slowing down their ability to recover,” he said.

To donate to Oxfam’s Zimbabwe appeal visit or call 1800 088 110.
For more information or to interview Paul Davenport, please contact Kate Thwaites on 0407 515 559