An Incapacitated Government; Dysfunctional, The Economy In Free Fall, Drought And Calamitous Floods – Cyclone IDAI – All Plunge Zimbabwe Into Acute Food Shortages///CRIMSON TAZVINZWA/
HARARE, Zimbabwe — The people lined up early for a chance to buy subsidized maize meal from the government-run Grain Marketing Board depot in Harare, at prices they could afford. After three hours, a guard emerged to announce that the depot’s supply was rotten so there would be none for sale that day.
The crowd of 150 reacted with disbelief and anger.
“Life is hard, all things are expensive, there are no price controls and inflation just keeps getting worse,” said Benjamini Dunha, 57, a plumber who makes 700 Zimbabwe dollars a month — about $38 at official exchange rates. Less than a year ago, his salary was worth much closer to $700.
Another shopper, Nyasha Domboka, 52, spoke cynically about a truckful of maize meal, also known as mealie meal, that he had just seen in the depot parking lot. “How can mealie-meal packed just recently be said to have gone bad all of a sudden?” he asked.
A combination of government dysfunction, an economic meltdown, droughts and a calamitous cyclone this past March have hurtled Zimbabwe toward a hunger disaster that has become the most severe in southern Africa and among the most alarming in the world. While food is not necessarily scarce yet, it is becoming unaffordable for all but the privileged few.
“I cannot stress enough the urgency of the situation in Zimbabwe,” Hilal Elver, an independent United Nations human rights expert on food security, said after a 10-day visit in November. Sixty percent of the country’s 14 million people, Ms. Elver said, are “food-insecure, living in a household that is unable to obtain enough food to meet basic needs.”
Hunger in Africa is a pervasive problem, but in Zimbabwe, once known as the continent’s breadbasket, it has been compounded by dysfunction that has left the country in its most serious economic crisis in a decade. The annual inflation rate, which the International Monetary Fund has called the world’s highest, is 300 percent.
According to this measure, 226.7 million people are starving in Africa. The countries most affected by extreme poverty and hunger in Africa are mainly those located south of the Sahara. One in four people suffers from hunger there – which means that the share of the world’s hungry is highest in sub-Saharan Africa.
Maize meal, a staple of the Zimbabwean diet, doubled in price in November to 101 Zimbabwe dollars per 10-kilogram sack. Now it costs 117. In early December, a two-liter bottle of cooking oil cost 59 Zimbabwe dollars. Now it costs more than 72.
“The money here is valueless now,” said Mr. Dunha, who has eight children. All they can afford to eat, he said, are vegetables and sadza, a thick porridge of boiled maize meal.