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UN warns of severe food crisis in Zimbabwe

Timothy Jones
December 30, 2019

More than half of Zimbabwe's 14 million people are threatened by a desperate lack of food, the UN says. It says the aid it provides could run out by the end of February.

A cow lying on the ground, weakened by lack of water
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/A. Ufumeli

Millions of Zimbabweans could go without enough to eat within weeks if the international community does not come up with adequate funding for food aid to the country, the United Nations warned on Monday.

Nearly 8 million people — half the population — is now facing food insecurity, the global body's World Food Programme (WFP) said.

WFP's deputy country director in Zimbabwe, Niels Balzar, said the hunger crisis, the worst in 10 years, was a result both of drought and of long years of mismanagement under the country's late long-term ruler, Robert Mugabe.

He said the WFP needed more than $200 million (€178 million) to be able to help all those in need — a number almost double the 4.1 million it currently assists — in the first half of 2020 alone.

"As things stand, we will run out of food by end of February, coinciding with the peak of the hunger season  — when needs are at the highest," Balzer said.

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Hat lying on dried-out mud in Mt. Darwin, Zimbabwe
No near end to the current drought is in sightImage: Imago Images/Xinhua

Failing crops

The WFP said the maize harvest in 2019 was half that of the year before, and that the overall production of cereal crops met less than half of needs nationwide. Rains had been "late and inadequate," and forecasts for the coming weeks predicted continuing hot and dry weather that is likely to cause another poor harvest in April, it said.

It also pointed to galloping inflation that was pushing prices of basic commodities far beyond the reach of normal citizens. For example, bread now cost 20 times what it cost just half a year ago, the WFP said.

Amid the wide-ranging economic crisis afflicting the countries, families were being forced to eat less, take children out of school and incur debts they could not pay off, the WFP said.

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