Harare—Famine has claimed the lives of 152 people, mostly children, in the western Zimbabwe city of Bulawayo, it was reported on Sunday.
The weekly independent Standard newspaper quoted from records of the Bulawayo city councils city health department records as saying that 29 people had died of malnutrition in July.
It brings to 152 the number of famine-related deaths reported in Bulawayo this year, although the records did not show the number of deaths in April.
Bulawayo is the only large urban centre in Zimbabwe where authorities monitor deaths caused by malnutrition. In Harare, however, the capitals council this year reported a substantial increase in chronic under-nutrition, especially among children.
The latest deaths come after orders by President Robert Mugabe’s government to Western aid agencies to end famine relief operations.
It claims a record harvest of maize, the national staple food, has been harvested this year, despite United Nations forecasts that about 4.5m people will need food aid to avoid starvation.
In the last two years, the UN has kept up to six million people at a time alive with food aid deliveries after the country’s once abundant agricultural industry was devastated by a campaign of massive and illegal seizures of land owned by the highly productive white commercial farming community.
Mugabe’s critics say they fear he plans to use food as a political weapon to force starving people to vote for his ruling party in parliamentary elections scheduled for March next year.
The Bulawayo health department report said that of the 29 people who died in July, 21 were children under the age of five.
In September last year, the World Food Programme estimated that 2.5m of the country’s urban population needed famine relief. The agency concentrated its food deliveries to rural areas, while food distribution in towns and cities was done by smaller independent agencies, but on a much smaller scale.