By Tatenda Chitagu
The World Food Programme (WFP) has said it will give assistance to the country’s urban poor and food insecure households under its cash transfer programme to alleviate hunger.
This comes as the latest food situation assessment in urban areas observed that an estimated 2,2 million urbanites — haunted by poverty, unemployment and the spiralling costs of basic commodities — are food insecure just like the rural folk.
WFP country director Eddie Rowe said currently the cash transfer programme was having a dry run in Epworth where they are piloting it with 20 000 people.
“According to the urban assessment of food situation three weeks ago, an additional 2,2 million people are food insecure. It is coincidental that of the 2 million that we plan to assist, the US has provided us with resources to cover one million from now to April. Had it not been for the resources, we would be struggling. We would not have had the resources, we expect to be able to support the most vulnerable and chronic food insecure households across the country,” Rowe said.
“So yes, we are looking at providing the cash benefit in towns. Mobile money transfers are easy in urban areas and also the goods are available than in rural areas. What we will be careful about is the price fluctuations. We prefer cash transfer in urban areas.”
He said they are targeting to reach 200 000 urbanites by January next year.
“We will be doing the cash transfer program for the urban poor. Currently, we are carrying a pilot programme in Epworth for 20 000 people where each is getting US$13. We plan to reach 200 000 residents in eight urban areas by January next year,” he said.
Rowe said the government’s ban on the use of the United States dollars and disbanding the multi-currency regime had taken a toll on the WFP’s cash transfer programme.
“We are very much affected (by the ban on the use of the US dollars). In fact, one of the obvious impacts was our ability to continue with the cash transfer programme,” he said.
“In the interest of the beneficiaries to ensure that we maintain the same ration, we made the decision to switch to in-kind (giving them foodstuffs) because even if we give them cash, they could not get the same amount of goods they would get if given foodstuffs.”