Hunger crisis

HARARE - An estimated 2,17million Zimbabweans - perhaps a fourth of the country's population - are in need of food aid, the Red Cross said yesterday.

HARARE - An estimated 2,17million Zimbabweans - perhaps a fourth of the country's population - are in need of food aid, the Red Cross said yesterday.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) yesterday pleaded for international funds for urgent food aid to Zimbabwe.

UN organisations have also appealed for more donor funds.

Secretary general of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society Emma Kundishora said: "In some parts of the country, the food situation is as bad as many of our volunteers and staff have ever seen it."

Erratic rain - too much in some areas and too little in others - has damaged crops of corn, the staple food across Zimbabwe.

The former regional breadbasket also has been hit by acute shortages of seed and fertiliser.

The Red Cross expressed particular concern about the possible effect of existing and looming food shortages on people living with or affected by HIV.

"Hunger is an especially brutal experience for these people," Kundishora said, describing people interrupting Aids medication because the drugs are too toxic without food.

"Once people do this, their situation deteriorates incredibly quickly," she said.

In December last year, the Red Cross extended emergency food operation in Zimbabwe until October 2010, calling on donors for $33,2million (R246million) in extra funding. The agency faces a shortfall in funding of about $23,9million (R177million).

IFRC representative in Zimbabwe Stephen Omollo said: "Right now, the situation is already critical - more than 2million people need direct humanitarian support.

"And we know that this will get worse as the upcoming harvest already appears to have failed."

Farmers organisations forecast local corn harvests this year of about 500000 tons, with annual consumption estimated at about 1,8million tons. - Sapa-AP

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