In Drought-Hit Zimbabwe, Children Feel the Pain of Hunger

Zimbabwe is currently suffering its worst drought in 35 years, aggravated by the effects of El Niño which is gripping the entire region. Two consecutive years of poor rains and crop failures, compounded by a severe economic crisis, have left more than a third of the country’s rural communities without sufficient food. Children, especially those living in remote areas, are bearing the brunt. Malnutrition rates are the highest in 15 years with 33,000 children in urgent need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition. In the hardest-hit areas like Matabelaland North, children often go to school hungry and are increasingly having trouble focusing. Drop-out rates are increasing as more children are being pulled from school in order to help find food, fetch increasingly scarce water, or engage in labor. Meanwhile, a government-led school feeding program supported for the youngest grades is struggling to get off the ground due to lack of funds and organizational capacity.