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Hunger the worst weapon of mass destruction

AS if the negative vibes over the economy following gloomy reports and prognoses from among others, the RBZ, the Industry and Commerce ministry, CZI and the Ministry of Finance, were not enough, there is another grave but largely ignored problem gnawing at the nation: hunger.

CANDID COMMENT BY STEWART CHABWINJA

While there is general consensus economy decline has quickened since last year’s general elections. The International Crisis Group just about summed up the prevailing sentiment in its recent report which states “Zimbabwe’s growing instability, exacerbated by dire economic decline, endemic governance failures, and tensions over ruling party succession, may lead to a slide into being a failed state if there are no major political and economic reforms”.

Indeed a bleak assessment of where the troubled economy is headed after meltdown for a decade and counting. But there is more: While the country reportedly attained a reasonable harvest in the last cropping season, Zimbabwe is ranked eighth out of 20 African countries that have “serious hunger” levels. This is according to the just-released 2014 Global Hunger Index (GHI).

The GHI examines levels of hunger in 120 countries that are developing or in transition, scoring them on three principal indicators: the proportion of people that are undernourished, proportion of children under five who are underweight, and the mortality rate of children under five.

In Zimbabwe 30,5% of the people are undernourished and prevalence of underweight children below five years is at 10,1%, according to the GHI. The index lends weight, as if any was required, to the World Food Programme report released earlier this year revealing rural poverty had increased to 76% in 2014 from 63% in 2003 as most rural households failed to produce enough food to feed themselves.

Along with the provision of basic services such as water, health and shelter — all basic human needs — a nation should for the most part be able to feed itself.

Failure to do so reduces its standing among the family of nations, much in the same way a man who fails to feed his family may elicit sympathy but not respect from those better circumstanced.

For much of the last 15 years or so, Zimbabwe has consistently failed to feed itself after a chaotic land reform programme that transferred most of the farming land to the black majority, albeit mostly the well-connected variety.

This has seen the country perennially extending the begging bowl to the international community, with donors chipping in in a large way as they have also done in the education and health sectors, among others.

It is thus astounding our political leaders can strut the international stage and brag about “sovereignty” when they depend on aid to provide the nation with the most basic needs.

Of course, Zimbabwe’s increasing poverty is inextricably linked to the obstinate economic crisis largely blamed on the economic mismanagement of Zanu PF. As former Brazilian president Lula da Silva once said: “hunger is actually the worst weapon of mass destruction”.

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