Driving across the parched landscape of Matabeleland North in western Zimbabwe, it’s hard to imagine that this country was once the breadbasket of Southern Africa. The annual rainy season ended in March, and this is supposed to be the most food secure time of the year, when granaries and stomachs are full. But Zimbabwe is in the grips of a second year of drought, exacerbated by El Niño, which has left an estimated 4.5 million people – nearly half of the rural population – without sufficient food.
Ongoing emergency evacuations of foreign citizens from South Sudan and President Obama’s decision to deploy 47 U.S. troops to protect the U.S. Embassy and staff are stark reminders of the potential for further escalation of violence in this conflict-ridden country. A fragile ceasefire has opened a window that the UN and other international actors must utilize to address the immediate fallout, act to protect civilians, and deliver much needed humanitarian aid.
Zimbabwe is currently suffering its worst drought in 35 years, aggravated by El Niño that is gripping the entire region. Two consecutive years of poor rains and crops failures, compounded by a severe economic crisis, have left almost half of the country’s rural communities without sufficient food.
While the ongoing El Niño has been impacting countries across the globe, in Zimbabwe, a country where 72 percent of the people live in chronic poverty and 70 percent rely on rain-fed agriculture to survive, the impacts of the prolonged drought and repeated crop failures have been severe.
World Refugee Day 2016 must be an occasion for the global community to recommit itself to the foundational principles enshrined in the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol, as well as in the Geneva Conventions: to uphold and defend the humanity and internationally guaranteed rights of the most vulnerable.