A challenging context compounding the problem
The past few years have seen Zimbabwe experience the worst drought in four decades. Although there was good rainfall last year, its impact will only be felt progressively. The subsequent poor harvests and a collapsing economy has resulted in food, fuel and water shortages across the country. According to the UN, Zimbabwe is “marching towards starvation” with the number of food-insecure people projected to rise to 5.5 million people between January and March 2020, which would be the highest number on record.
Additionally, Zimbabwe faces huge political and social challenges. The government continues to grapple with high unemployment rates, widespread corruption and acute cash shortages. In a move to stabilise the economy, the Zimbabwe government recently re-introduced the Zimbabwe dollar, originally scrapped over a decade ago. The resulting inflation combined with reduced harvest has resulted in a sharp increase in the price of food and fuel, with many families facing hunger, uncertainty and ever-deepening poverty.
Cyclone Idai struck in March last year, affecting half a million Zimbabweans in the east of the country. The cyclone caused extensive damage to crops and agricultural infrastructure, and in the recent humanitarian response, women and girls have suffered sexual exploitation and abuse. Tearfund’s partners received reports of young girls being dragged into bushes and raped, elderly women being raped in the aftermath of the floods, and women being required to give sexual favours in exchange for food and non-food items.
Tragically, humanitarian emergencies, food insecurity and poverty increase the prevalence of SGBV and in some crisis settings affects over 70 per cent of women (WHO, 2013). This challenging context is inflaming the incidence rate of sexual exploitation in Zimbabwe and makes the need for this project even more acute.