Up to four million people require food assistance in Zimbabwe, Labor and Social Minister Prisca Mupfumira told the state-owned Herald newspaper. The government had already asked for $1.6 billion dollars in aid.
The government in Harare was speeding up grain imports to ensure that no one starves, the minister told the Herald in a Tuesday article.
"Indications are that the figure of vulnerable households requiring food assistance could be as high as four million people," she said.
A committee comprised of UN agencies, government officials, and NGO activists, concluded last year that 1.5 million needed food aid. The number has "ballooned" to four million as Zimbabwe struggles with an El Nino-induced drought, according to the newspaper.
The authorities have enough grain in stock for the next three months, Mupfumira said, adding that the situation was "under control."
"We have mobilized the resources, and its all systems out to ensure grain is moved from areas with surplus maize to those that have a deficit."
Bracing for disaster
Mupfumira also denied reports that food was being delivered along party lines, based on political affiliation of the recipients.
"When people are given, they are not told to produce a party card," she said, warning that such practice would be punished in accordance with the law.
Last month, Harare appealed for $1.6 billion dollars (1.44 billion euro) in aid to help pay for grain and other kinds of food. The country's long-reigning strongman Robert Mugabe also declared a state of disaster over the worst drought in decades.
President expects to be 100
Mugabe turned 92 in February, marking the event in one of the regions most affected by the drought. Regime critics slammed the president over a lavish party which racked up a bill of $800,000. Several cakes were on display at the public celebration, including a 92-kilogram (203 pounds) replica of the Great Zimbabwe ruins, the archeological site where the party took place.
In his birthday interview to the Zimbabwe's state broadcaster, Mugabe ruled out naming a successor.
"I want to reach 100 years so I have only eight strides to go,' he said.
The president also said he wanted his birthday to be declared a national holiday.
Darko Janjevic (Reuters, AFP, AP)