While the full extent of the impact of COVID-19 on food security is not yet determined as the pandemic situation is evolving and impact assessments results are yet to be finalized, the pandemic’s containment measures are likely to have far reaching impacts on the country’s socio-economic conditions and the livelihoods of many vulnerable and low-income people in urban and peri-urban settings, limiting their ability to meet their food and nutrition needs.
As part of ongoing impact assessments, sector partners finalized the rapid food security and vulnerability impact assessment (undertaken from 08 to 18 June) in Lusaka and Kafue to ascertain the extent to which main livelihood strategies have been impacted by COVID-19 either directly or indirectly. Preliminary findings in the two districts indicate that livelihoods of people in the informal sector and household sector with pre-existing vulnerabilities (including households headed by the elderly, people with disabilities, and female headed households) were the worst impacted by COVID-19. The pandemic has also affected the quality, quantity and diversity of meals accessed and consumed in the households, with over 190,000 people in the two districts found to be food insecure and in need of assistance.
The sector is rolling out cash assistance to approximately 180,000 vulnerable people living in urban and peri-urban areas, initially targeting Lusaka and Kafue districts for four months (July to October 2020) to avert food insecurity exacerbated by COVID-19. Each household will be receiving ZMK 400 (about US$21.9) per month, equivalent to half the value of a basic food basket. A mobile network operator will oversee the disbursement through its numerous cash points to minimize human-to-human contact.
As part of due diligence for beneficiary targeting, on 9 July the sector started validating the 37,000 households identified in Lusaka and Kafue across the 50 disadvantaged, high density and low-income areas to ensure the most food insecure and vulnerable groups are identified and reached with cash assistance using a food security eligibility screening tool.
To promote the choice and consumption of nutritious food, the sector has finalized the development of nutrition messages (as part of social and behaviour change communication – SBCC), which will be disseminated to the targeted beneficiaries through text messages (SMS), in addition to initial sensitization sessions.
On 13 July, the sector started conducting market and price monitoring to generate information that would help the Government and other partners to ascertain the impacts of COVID-19 and to subsequently inform decision-making on response plans. Using a call centre, data on market and price performance is collected on a weekly basis from 114 traders in 20 markets across the targeted four districts (Lusaka, Kafue, Livingstone and Kitwe).
With US$4.8 million in confirmed contributions out of the required $48.9 million, the sector will provide cash assistance in Lusaka and Kafue districts, initially targeting around 180,000 food insecure and vulnerable people including refugees and undertake market performance monitoring. The sector urgently needs $44.1 million to expand its response to all the targeted districts to reach the 684,000 people.
As a result of limited resources, some sector members are reliant on impact assessments to be conducted by the Government in order to inform their COVID-19 response actions.