The COVID-19-related lockdown in Zimbabwe has increased hunger in urban areas over the past year with over 2.4 million people losing their daily wages, the World Food Programme announced on Monday.

Citing the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee’s (ZimVAC) report coordinated by the Food and Nutrition Council, the WFP explained that COVID-19 lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of the virus “have dealt a severe blow to poor urban communities, many of whom were daily wage earners living hand to mouth.”

“While unable to find work in cities, the ban on travel has meant that seasonal employment in rural areas is no longer an option,” the WFP added.

It explained that with work opportunities disappearing, 42% of urban households would not be able to meet their cereal needs this year compared to roughly 30% for the same period in 2019.

“Reduced access to nutritious food has resulted in negative impacts for many. Families will find it difficult to put food on the table, most of them have been stuck at home and were not able to go to work, the fortunate ones will skip meals while those without will have to go to bed with an empty stomach,” the WFP Representative and Country Director Francesca Erdelmann was quoted as saying in the report.

“For the most vulnerable people, hunger will have a lasting effect on their lives. The deteriorating hunger situation, caused by COVID-19, threatens to be their biggest challenge,” Erdelmann added.

The WFP said there has been a sharp decrease in the standard of living across Zimbabwe’s poor urban communities “with 83% of urban households now below the cost of the minimum expected food items such as mealie meal, salt, and cooking oil compared to 76.8% in 2019.”

A sharp increase in the prices of basic commodities amid inflation and the negative economic effects of COVID-19 have been one of the challenges faced by the urban households in the Southern African country, the WFP said.

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