Zimbabwe and Zambia Face Severe Food Shortages as Drought Persists

Severe drought in Zimbabwe and Zambia threatens food security, fueling instability and the need for urgent international support to build climate resilience.

Mazhar Abbas
New Update
Zimbabwe and Zambia Face Severe Food Shortages as Drought Persists

Zimbabwe and Zambia Face Severe Food Shortages as Drought Persists

Zimbabwe and Zambia are confronting severe food shortages due to a persistent drought that has gripped the southern African region. In Zimbabwe, an estimated 2.7 million people are at risk of hunger, while Zambia has declared its first national emergency in 40 years.

The drought, exacerbated by the El Niño weather phenomenon, has decimated livelihoods, particularly in the agricultural sector, which sustains over 70% of the population. Low water levels are threatening hydropower, the primary source of electricity in Zambia. The World Food Programme (WFP) reports that the prevalence of insufficient food consumption has increased the most in major grain-producing regions of Zimbabwe, such as Harare, Mashonaland West, and Mashonaland Central.

Why this matters: The severe drought and resulting food shortages in Zimbabwe and Zambia underscore the devastating impact of climate change on vulnerable populations. As the crisis deepens, it threatens to fuel instability, mass migrations, and outbreaks of diseases, highlighting the urgent need for international support and long-term solutions to build resilience against climate-related disasters.

Zimbabwe has declared a state of disaster and is seeking more than $2 billion from well-wishers to tackle the food shortages. The government is investing over $1.2 billion annually to address the climate crisis and mainstream climate change in its budgeting and planning processes. In Zambia, the government has taken similar measures, with stakeholders like the UN, World Food Programme, and African Risk Capacity (ARC) working to provide urgent food and cash assistance.

ARC, a specialized agency of the African Union, has paid out $14.2 million to Malawi, $5.3 million to Zambia, and $1.4 million to Zimbabwe in 2022 to support resilience-building efforts and recovery. The World Bank Group, with 189 member countries and offices in over 130 locations, is also working to provide financial products, technical assistance, and innovative solutions to help developing countries address challenges like food insecurity and poverty.

The drought has led to higher food prices, but the grain millers association in Zimbabwe assures that they are not profiteering and will maintain their usual profit margins. Access to food on the markets is constrained by low incomes and high prices, with poor households estimated to be having one to two meals daily. The green harvest of crops for consumption is also unavailable due to late planting and poor crop conditions.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the impact of the drought is exacerbating the economic outlook for sub-Saharan Africa, with widespread crop failure and livestock deaths being reported. The IMF has lowered South Africa's growth forecast and is forecasting a gradual improvement in the regional economic outlook, with growth expected to rise from 3.4% in 2023 to 3

Key Takeaways

  • Zimbabwe and Zambia face severe food shortages due to persistent drought.
  • Drought has decimated livelihoods, threatened hydropower, and increased food insecurity.
  • Governments seek international support to address the crisis and build climate resilience.
  • Regional agencies provide financial assistance to support recovery and resilience efforts.
  • Drought worsens economic outlook, with crop failures and livestock deaths reported.