How coronavirus is affecting Zimbabwe

4 May 2020

Young man collecting food in Zimbabwe

Lockdown measures to contain coronavirus can cause poor families to go hungry. Our local experts are providing food to families affected by Cyclone Idai in Zimbabwe, so that they can survive lockdown and continue to rebuild their lives.

Just over a year ago, Zimbabwe was hit by Cyclone Idai and floods devastated villages and communities. A severe drought and spiralling food prices also pushed the country into a food crisis, with many going hungry.

Your generosity and support meant that we could reach vulnerable communities with life-saving food, clean water and hygiene kits.

But now, families and communities in Zimbabwe are facing a new danger.

Donate to the Coronavirus Appeal

We asked Verity Johnson, CAFOD’s representative for Zimbabwe, how she and her colleagues are responding to coronavirus.

What was the situation in Zimbabwe before coronavirus hit?

Prior to the onset of coronavirus, Zimbabwe was already facing a humanitarian emergency due to successive droughts and extreme weather compounded by economic collapse. More than six million people are facing severe hunger.

How did the Zimbabwean government respond to coronavirus?

Zimbabwe, in line with many countries around the world, responded to coronavirus with the introduction of a 21-day lockdown, which was extended for a further two weeks up to 3 May.

However, in Zimbabwe there are no furlough schemes and social safety nets were already fraying and strained to capacity.

More than 80 per cent of people in Zimbabwe survive in the informal work sector. With the lockdown informal trading has largely ceased, leaving millions with no source of income.

What has happened to food prices?

The price of basic foods has spiked, with the staple ‘mealie-meal’ (maize meal) increasing in price by over a third in the first week of the lockdown and shortages reported in many areas.

This follows months of hyperinflation where food costs were rising out of reach for many families.

Zimbabwe imports much of its food from neighbouring South Africa, which is also in lockdown, and therefore prices are likely to continue to rise as availability decreases - pushing more people in to hunger.

How is CAFOD responding?

Our local experts, many from Church agencies, are working on the ground to respond both to the drought emergency and now to the effects of this pandemic - last month they were able to distribute food to some of the worst-affected areas and plan to continue doing so this month.

They have also established training on social distancing and hygiene measures to make sure aid workers, and desperate communities in need of food, both stay as safe as possible.

We are working to scale-up access to water for communities and health clinics and schools, many of which may find themselves on the frontline of the coronavirus response.

Our local experts tell us that people cannot stay in their homes when there is nothing to eat and no water – they must go out to survive.

Donate to our Coronavirus Appeal

We have launched an emergency appeal for funds as millions of people in developing countries face devastation because of coronavirus.

Families without enough to eat and without access to clean water, living with HIV or in cramped refugee camps, will be very vulnerable. Our local experts are already in these communities and ready to help those in need, prevent the spread of the virus and protect lives.

Your donations to support this work are needed now more than ever.

Donate to the Coronavirus Appeal

Back to top