El Nino: Zimbabwe declares "state of disaster" as Oxfam plans response

Zimbabwe has declared a 'state of disaster' regarding drought in the country that has been triggered by El Nino. In response to President Mugabe's announcement, Oxfam's Zimbabwe Country Director, Jan Vossen, said:

"Oxfam marks the Zimbabwe government's declaration of a 'state of disaster', which recognizes the terrible impact this El Nino-triggered drought is causing. Official figures say that 2.44 million people - more than one in five of the population - are going to really struggle for food. This should shock the international community into immediate action."

In coordination with the government, donors and other international NGOs, Oxfam and five local partners have been planning to “pre-position” a coordinated response when funding from donors becomes available. Oxfam will focus on water treatment and distribution, rehabilitation of water sources, motorization of boreholes through solar pumps, sanitation and health promotion. 

Oxfam will also work on increased access to food by doing market assessments, cash transfers and distribution of vouchers, and distribution of seeds. 

Notes to editors: 

Oxfam says El Nino led to both less and more erratic rainfall in Zimbabwe in December. The western and southern parts of the country got less than 100mm of rainfall, when typically they get between 450-650mm. Most all of the country has received less than 75% of normal rainfall. 

Three out of every five farmers haven't been able to plant their crops. As much as 75% of the maize crop has been written off in Masvingo province and there's been a 65% write off in Matabeland South. Nearly 17,000 livestock have died. The country faces a cereal shortfall of 1.7m tons, with a maize harvest only half that of last year. 

Zimbabwe imports maize from Zambia but because the entire southern Africa region has been affected, even Zambia stocks are lower than usual. Science experts predict 95% probability that El Nino will continue through 2016 and would therefore weaken the key rainy season in April.

Oxfam research says that the burden of care is increasingly falling on women, who have to limit food portions, skipping meals, and compromise on water including for their own food gardens. 

Contact information: 

Matt Grainger, in Johannesburg: matt.grainger@oxfaminternational.org / +44-7730680837

For updates, please follow @Oxfam and @OxfaminZimbabwe

Read: El Niño and Climate Change: All You Need to Know