Zimbabwe faces its worst food shortages in four years following a drought and poor harvest, the UN World Food Programme said on Tuesday. An estimated 2.2 million people expected to need food assistance during the pre-harvest period early next year.
The food crisis emerged one month after veteran President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF disputed re-election.
The agency said it was collaborating with the government and international aid organisations in Zimbabwe to provide food assistance to about a fifth of Zimbabwe’s 13 million population in the period from October until the next crop harvest in March/April 2014.
The agency revealed in its statement that “Hunger is on the rise in Zimbabwe with an estimated 2.2 million people – one in four of the rural population – expected to need food assistance during the pre-harvest period early next year.”
This is the highest number of Zimbabweans requiring food assistance since early 2009, when more than half the population relied on such aid.
The 2009 food shortage was the peak of a decade-long economic crisis blamed by many on Mugabe’s policies, notably his government’s seizure of white-owned commercial farms for redistribution to landless blacks. However, Mugabe, 89 and Zimbabwe’s ruler since independence from Britain in 1980, stated he was correcting ownership imbalances created by colonialism.
The latest food shortages were due to bad weather, high seed and fertiliser costs and projections that food prices will climb because of the poor maize harvest.
Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party have promised food imports and said no Zimbabwean would die from hunger.