Posted on February 1, 2005

Warning on Zimbabwe Food Crisis

AP, Jan. 29

Nearly half of all Zimbabweans are facing hunger as the country’s food emergency deepens, a monitoring group said yesterday.

Urgent action is required to help 5.8 million people out of a population of 12.5 million who are now at risk from food shortages, the US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network said in its latest report.

It ranked Zimbabwe’s food emergency second in Africa to Ethiopia’s, where 8.2 million people are at risk from hunger.

The report contradicted Harare’s assertion that the country had harvested more food — mainly staple corn — than it needs. “Staple food availability is declining as market prices continue to rise,” it said. Malnutrition and related illnesses were forecast to peak in March, before the next harvests.

In many areas, families were forced to reduce food consumption drastically, while projects to help the old, the sick, orphans and other vulnerable groups were said to be grossly inadequate.

The report echoed concerns voiced this week by James Morris, the head of the World Food Programme, over Harare’s refusal of international food aid.

Agricultural production has collapsed in the five years since Robert Mugabe ordered the seizure of about 5,000 white-owned farms for redistribution to black Zimbabweans.

In what was once a regional breadbasket, about 5.5 million people received food handouts from international agencies in 2003. But most food aid agreements were cancelled last year as the government said they were no longer necessary.