The food security crisis in the continent is being exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A Scottish aid worker tasked with saving 26,000 people from starvation in Zimbabwe has warned of the devastating impact the Ukraine conflict is having on food security around the world.
Peter McGeachie, from Prestwick in Ayrshire, is the country director in Zimbabwe for Belfast-based overseas development agency Trόcaire, the Irish sister agency of Glasgow-based charity SCIAF.
The 62-year-old will help Trόcaire tackle crippling food poverty in Zimbabwe with up to £2million of extra funding from the UK Government.
Harare-based Peter has over three decades experience working in some of the world’s poorest countries including Mozambique, Nepal, Myanmar and Pakistan.
He said: “Communities here were already struggling to provide for their families because of the very serious effects of climate change and the challenges of Covid-19.
“But in recent weeks the situation has become significantly worse. Most people in Zimbabwe depend on rain-fed agriculture to feed their families. It’s coming to the end of the rainy season and unfortunately the rains have failed in many places.
“The growing season was looking quite good, but then there were poor rains in January and February and that changed everything. Instead of fields full of maize and other crops ready to be harvested, there are vast swathes of stunted or dead plants.
“I have spoken to farmers in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. Life is a daily struggle for them and they have told me they estimate they will lose much of their harvest this year, meaning critical food shortages and lack of income for their communities in the coming months.
“Coupled with this poor harvest is the effect of rising food prices. As in many countries around the world, including at home in Scotland, the war in Ukraine has seen the price of food and fuel sky-rocket in Zimbabwe in recent weeks. Inflation rates continue to spiral upwards.”
All donations to Trόcaire before June 1 are being doubled through the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s UK Aid Match scheme.
UN agency, the World Food Program (WFP), estimates that some 5.3 million Zimbabweans – around a third of the population - are food insecure.
The food security crisis is being exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Ukraine normally produces enough food to feed 400 million people, but the abrupt halt to its exports has helped to drive up prices of staples such as flour, maize and cooking oil.
Minister for Africa Vicky Ford said: “The UK Government is delighted that through UK Aid Match, we will again be doubling generous donations from the public, to support Trocaire’s valuable work.
“With your support, Trocaire will provide life-saving help for Zimbabwean families facing hunger through drought, climate change and a food security crisis exacerbated by Russia’s barbaric invasion stealing food from the mouths of the world’s poorest people.”
However Peter is keen to stress that the situation is not without hope. With donations made in the UK, Trόcaire is working with communities in Zimbabwe to try to ensure that they are able to survive these latest shocks.
He said: “Covid-19 and the Ukraine conflict have only added to the problems already faced by seven million people in southern Zimbabwe, especially women, hit with drought caused by climate change.
“The Trόcaire Lenten Appeal this year is putting the spotlight on Zimbabwe. We are delighted that the UK government has pledged to match, pound for pound, every public donation made before June 1 to the appeal in the UK.
“Things are bad in Zimbabwe and the coming months are going to be extremely difficult for the people here. But donations to the Lenten Appeal will enable Trόcaire to continue supporting people in their time of need and provide hope where previously there was very little.
“This is having a profound impact on people who already had very little disposable income. Now everything is costing more – vegetable oil that people cook with, salt, soap, sugar, batteries and candles.”