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Some 35,000 people turned up to the event organized by a church group in Lusaka. Droughts across southern Africa have caused a sharp uptick in food prices in a nation where poverty is already rampant.
Authorities in Zambia said eight people died in the capital Lusaka after a stampede broke out during food handouts. Police spokeswoman Esther Katongo told the press that six women, one man and one boy were killed when tens of thousands turned up to the event at the Olympic Youth Development Center.
The event was organized by the Church of Christ as a prayer meeting to be followed by food distribution in the poverty-stricken country. About 35,000 people, mostly from the city's growing slums, came to receive the cornmeal, cooking oil and salt the church was distributing.
After the stampede, police ordered a halt to the handouts. Hundreds, however, remained on the premises hoping the giveaway would resume.
"We cannot afford to buy it, so we come here," a 64-year-old woman told French news agency AFP.
A severe drought and crop pests across southern Africa has caused food prices in the region to spike. This has hit Zambia particularly hard, as about 60 percent of Zambians live below the poverty line, according to the World Bank.
es/bw (AFP, dpa)