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Scottish aid worker tells of devastating food poverty in Zimbabwe

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Scottish aid worker in Zimbabwe has warned of the devastating impact the Ukraine conflict is having on food security around the world.

Peter McGeachie, country director in Zimbabwe for overseas development agency Trocaire, is tasked with saving 26,000 from starvation in the southern African country.

The 62-year-old, from Prestwick in Ayrshire, will help Trocaire – the Irish sister agency of Glasgow-based charity Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF) – to tackle food poverty in Zimbabwe with up to £2 million extra funding from the UK Government.

Mr McGeachie said the people of Zimbabwe are finding the cost-of-living crisis “extremely difficult” as an estimated 5.3 million people – around a third of the country’s population – is food insecure, according to UN agency the World Food Programme (WFP).

And he said the Russian invasion of Ukraine has only exacerbated the issue and has driven up the price of staples such as flour, maize and cooking oil.

Scottish aid worker Peter McGeachie is helping Zimbabweans struggling with food poverty. (Paul Sherwood/Trocaire)

Ukraine typically produces enough food to feed around 400 million people, however, the crisis has significantly impacted its exports.

Mr McGeachie said communities in Zimbabwe were already struggling to feed their families because of Covid-19, but in recent weeks, locals are finding it “significantly worse” as their own efforts to grow crops are thwarted by climate change.

He said: “I have spoken to farmers in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. Life is a daily struggle for them and they have told me they estimate they will lose much of their harvest this year, meaning critical food shortages and lack of income for their communities in the coming months.

“Coupled with this poor harvest is the effect of rising food prices. As in many countries around the world, including at home in Scotland, the war in Ukraine has seen the rise of the price of food and fuel sky-rocket in Zimbabwe in recent weeks.

“Inflation rates continue to spiral upwards.”

But Mr McGeachie, who has more than three decades of experience supporting some of the world’s poorest countries such as Mozambique, Nepal and Myanmar, said the UK’s funding efforts can help Zimbabweans survive the latest crises.

He added: “Covid-19 and the Ukraine conflict have only added to the problems already faced by seven million people in southern Zimbabwe, especially women, hit with drought caused by climate change.”

The UK Government is doubling all donations to the charity before June 1 through the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’s UK Aid Match scheme.

Things are bad in Zimbabwe and the coming months are going to be extremely difficult for the people here

Welcoming the support, Mr McGeachie said: “Things are bad in Zimbabwe and the coming months are going to be extremely difficult for the people here.

“But donations to the Lenten Appeal will enable Trocaire to continue supporting people in their time of need and provide hope where previously there was very little.

“This is having a profound impact on people who already had very little disposable income. Now everything is costing more – vegetable oil that people cook with, salt, soap, sugar, batteries and candles.

“The little money people have will have to be spent on food. They don’t know how they will pay their children’s school fees and fear they will be sent home if they can’t pay.”

Vicky Ford, UK Minister for Africa, said the UK Government was “delighted” to support the charity which is “providing life-saving help for Zimbabweans facing hunger through drought, climate change and a food security crisis exacerbated by Russia’s barbaric invasion stealing food from the mouths of the world’s poorest people.”

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