Editor's Comment

Join efforts to fight hunger

Maize.

IT IS Government’s desire to ensure that no citizen dies from hunger in the aftermath of the dry spell, which affected more than half of the country.
Lusaka, Muchinga, Central and Eastern provinces, which receive normal rains, were not spared by the 2018-2019 season dry spell.
The Southern and Western provinces were the worst hit by the dry spell.
This has placed a huge burden on Government to distribute relief food to the affected households in the affected areas.
Government has admittedly done very well so far, although much needs to be done to ensure that none of the affected households are left out.
The Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU), under the Office of the Vice-President, is responsible for distribution of relief food to people in need of help.
The distribution of relief food is based on the assessments made by teams of officers DMMU sends countrywide, working with those in respective areas of need.
The DMMU’s hands-on approach gives the country a good picture of the extent of the challenge. Recent reports show that the matter requires greater attention.
This is evidenced by the fact that the number of districts on the list needing food support has risen from 38 to over 68. This is more than half of the country’s 116 districts.
While it is true that it is not all citizens in these districts that need relief food, it is worrisome that the scope is this wide.
There could be some constraints in the distribution of food, more so going by economic challenges the country is going through.
Government is extra vigilant to prevent people from starving but the treasury is surely being stretched to the limit since relief food distribution also requires timely transportation and close monitoring to ensure that the food reaches the intended homes.
There is no harm in Government joining efforts or enhancing ties with other organisations that have made it their goal to avert hunger.
Given that now it is almost the whole country which is affected, Government needs more hands on board to ensure a smooth and faster distribution of the food.
The British High Commission has joined the chorus by some non-governmental organisations in urging Government to consider declaring the hunger situation in some parts of the country an emergency.
British High Commissioner to Zambia Fergus Cochrane-Dyet says such a declaration will attract more support from the international community.
Mr Cochrane-Dyet says the hunger situation in some parts of the country is worrying, and that it needs urgent mitigation interventions to prevent loss of lives.
When he met Vice-President Inonge Wina at her office, Mr Cochrane-Dyet said there should be no reservations by Government to declare the hunger situation as an emergency.
It is good that various local and international groups are stating their concern about the hunger situation, an indication that they have the capacity to help.
Some of them are basing their concern on own assessments of the situation on the ground, within the scope of the mandates.
There is little, if any doubt, that their assessments are correct and similar to those by Government. In other words, they know where the needs are most pronounced.
Some of them are already helping out by supplying food. They did not need a formal declaration of an emergency to mobilise resources to move into the needy districts and give out the food.
Government too is rolling out the food to the needy districts, but it would certainly be better if more local and international support came on board.
Appealing to the international community will enable more international partners to move in and render help – some short-term, others mid-term and others long-term.
Considering that the food being given is for relief, there is need to look for long-term and permanent solutions.
This is where some of the international partners could come in. Some drought-prone regions need alternative agricultural methods. This entails major projects that are costly.
Irrigation projects that Government has already rolled out in some parts of the country could be sustainable solutions in the drought-hit districts. These require more money, which some international partners could provide.
Such projects would help farmers to be productive all year round as well as encourage children to stay in school.
Indeed no one should go hungry, let alone die of hunger.

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