The UN is redoubling efforts to secure emergency food aid for Zimbabwe, where a key official told DW the situation was 'unprecedented.' Sixteen million people are now facing hunger across southern Africa.
The United Nations has been expanding its appeal for help in combating hunger in Zimbabwe by asking the BRICS nations to contribute.
Bishow Parajuli, UN Resident Coordinator in Zimbabwe, said "timely support" by BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) "would go a long way in augmenting efforts by the government of Zimbabwe, the UN, traditional OECD donor countries, the Red Cross movement and the NGOs."
Harare has good relations with China and Russia, but BRICS has not contributed directly to previous emergency responses.
Zimbabwe is facing its worst drought in 25 years. The exceptionally arid weather made worse by the El Nino phenomenon has killed around 20,000 cattle over the last few months and left close to three million people facing hunger in the southern African country.
Zimbabwe itself has launched an appeal for $1.6 billion (1.5 billion euros) so it can feed those severely affected.
According to Parajuli, the UN has only raised $78 million so far, mainly from the United States, the European Union and its own funds.
Parajuli told DW the "situation in Zimbabwe was unprecedented. The fiscal situation is very tight, the economy is not in a healthy situation, and the government doesn't have access to money from financial institutions, so I really want to appeal to the international community for a good support."
Impact across the region
The drought has hit vast tracts of southern and eastern Africa, where about 50 million people now face food insecurity.
The agriculture sector in Zimbabwe's neighbor, South Africa, lost a billion dollars in 2015 because of the drought. South Africa, normally the region's bread basket, will have to import at least four million tons of maize in 2016 rather than fulfilling its role as a food exporter.
George Kembo, director of Zimbabwe's Food and Nutrition Council, said a lot of Zimbabwean households were dependent on South African food imports.
"With the rand depreciating and South Africa importing maize, automatically the price of food was going to go up," he told DW.
Spot prices for grain have gone up by 100 percent over the past year.
The UN's World Food Program (WFP) said last week (04.03.2016) that 16 million people in southern Africa were facing hunger. In January, the WFP put the figure at 14 million.
Local media were reporting that maize and maize meal were being smuggled to Burundi from Zambia amid shortages in the southern African country.
In February, Zambia banned the export of maize meal, which left Zimbabwean millers struggling to get their hands on 70,000 tons of supplies they had already paid for.
Columbus Mavhunga contributed to this report.