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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 17:24 GMT 18:24 UK
Starvation looms in southern Zimbabwe
Farm workers left homeless after attack
Drought, floods and farm invasions are all blamed
By our reporter in Harare

About three million people in southern Zimbabwe are reported to be facing starvation as critical food shortages bite.

Since independence, the Southern African country has always been a net exporter of food but now aid agencies working in the area say the situation is desperate.

No deaths from starvation have been officially reported in the area but relief agencies say the situation will worsen if food aid is not sent quickly.

In some areas, thousands have resorted to eating tree roots simply to stay alive, but even the bland roots are now in scarce supply.

Estimates by the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) say Zimbabwe will need to import a total of about 570,000 metric tonnes of maize and wheat to avert starvation and replenish its reserves.

So far, some 2,5 million have registered with the government for emergency food aid.

According to Mark Karinda, the national drought coordinator of Christian Care International which is working in the affected areas, they have had to introduce a feeding scheme for children.

Another aid agency, Care International, reported that in the southern Provinces of Midlands and Masvingo, 100,000 children are already taking a supplementary meal a day.

For some of these children, school is the one place they are assured of a square meal each day and worth the long distance they have to walk.

Shortages

Last month Zimbabwean Agriculture Minister Joseph Made admitted the country was to import 100 000 tons of maize immediately from neighbouring South Africa to avert the looming food shortages.

Bread in Harare
Bread is in short supply after prices were fixed recently

But for a long time, Zimbabwe denied that the country could face food shortages

The government has promised that no-one will starve.

But the opposition have already warned the government not to use food aid to try to get votes In next year's presidential elections.

Drought-prone southern Zimbabwe normally receives very little rainfall, but last year, poor harvests came as a result of a combination of drought and heavy rains brought about by Cyclone Eline that ravaged southern Zimbabwe.

The lack of food has also been attributed to additional factors such as the government's chaotic land reform programme.

In urban areas, consumers are facing massive bread and other food shortages as a result of strict price controls imposed by the government last week.

Major bakeries in the country have already put workers on shorter working hours and reduced output because of the price controls.

Several face closure unless the prices are revised.

See also:

10 Oct 01 | Business
Zimbabwe slashes food prices
05 Jul 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe admits food crisis
29 Jun 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe warns of currency crisis
13 Jun 01 | Africa
Fuel prices surge in Zimbabwe
14 Jun 01 | Africa
Anger at Zimbabwe price rises
17 Oct 01 | Africa
Zimbabwe anger over SA expulsions
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