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Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Zimbabwe's food crisis: Region by region


978,000 people are affected by the food crisis in this region, according to the World Food Programme.

This is the region worst affected by the drought.

Zimbabwe food crisis
Matabeleland: 978,000 affected
Mashonaland: 1 million
Masvingo: 972,000
Midlands: 620,000
Manicaland: 843,000
Urban areas: 850,000
Farm-workers: 825,000
Source: WFP
It is also the only rural area which voted for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

The BBC's Thabo Kunene in the main city, Bulawayo, says that maize meal is now readily available in the city - but only on the black market.

The government has attempted to reduce inflation by controlling the prices of basic goods.

But this has had the effect of creating shortages in the shops, where a 10kg bag of maize meal costs 380 Zimbabwe dollars (US$7).

Meanwhile, in markets and in the houses of black market traders, it is easily available for Z$1,000 a bag.

Our correspondent says that some millers are encouraging the black market trade in order to increase their revenue.

Following protests by the United States, the distribution of food aid in rural areas was briefly opened up to opposition supporters.

But Thabo Kunene says that with local elections coming up in September, it is feared that food aid will again be used as a campaign tool.


972,000 people are affected.

I cannot go and buy maize

Energy Bara Independent journalist
Local journalist Energy Bara told BBC News Online that people are abandoning their homes and moving to larger villages in search of food.

One such rural centre, Rutenga, "looks like a squatter camp," he said.

People wait for days until a truck arrives with food but even then, only maybe one person in five gets the food.

In some remote parts of Masvingo province, such as Chiredzi, the roads have not been repaired since the devastating floods of 2000 and even government trucks cannot get through.

He says that some aid agencies are distributing food but they are only allowed to travel to rural areas if they are accompanied by representatives of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

And this is also the case in Masvingo town.

Energy Bara works for the Daily News, which the government sees as pro-opposition, and he says that Zanu-PF officials turn him away from shops which have food.

"I cannot go and buy maize," he said.

Friends and relatives must go on his behalf.


One million people need food aid.

Jacob Muzimba, a pupil at a school in rural Chikono, eats wild fruit
Even wild fruits may become a luxury in rural areas

Mashonaland generally receives more rain than other parts of the country.

But this year, some parts of the region have also been badly hit.

Crops have even failed in Zvimba, one of the most fertile parts of the country.

The Aids pandemic also means that many people are too weak to farm properly.

This is where support is strongest for President Robert Mugabe and opposition supporters claim they are routinely turned away from grain depots where they try and buy food.


620,000 people affected.

Food delivery
Harare residents queue for hours to get basic food

The distribution of food aid is being done along party political lines.

Local journalist Zerubabel Mudzingwa told BBC News Online that he recently saw opposition supporters being kicked out of a queue for food aid in Mberengwa.

He says that the government is tying to control the distribution of food and has prevented most aid agencies from working independently.

Most food is being distributed in rural areas but people in the big towns such as Gweru are also hungry.

A food for work programme has been introduced, where people get food in exchange for doing casual work, such as filling in pot-holes for the city council.

The aid agency Oxfam is planning to distribute food to 11,000 people in Zvishavane in a week's time.

Oxfam is confident that politics will not disrupt the relief work as community leaders, not government officials, decide who gets the food.

The next harvest will be in April 2003 and there are fears that the need for food will only increase before then.


Many of the 850,000 urban people affected by the food crisis are in the capital.

Most shops have run out of the staple food, maize-meal, as well as other basic commodities such as cooking oil and salt.

Robert Mugabe
A membership card for Robert Mugabe's party may get you some food

The BBC's Lewis Machipisa says that if people hear that deliveries are expected, they queue up from early in the morning outside supermarkets.

Alternatively, foodstuffs are available on the black market - from stalls on the streets.

Unless, of course, the police get to the black marketeers first.

Our correspondent says that food aid is not being distributed in Harare and no food for work programmes have been set up.


843,000 people are affected by the food crisis.

A local church official told BBC News Online that the situation is "very terrible".

No food aid has yet been delivered to the region, he said.

Only the few farmers with access to irrigation schemes had managed to grow many crops this year.

Many children have dropped out of school to look for food, he said.

Grant Ferrett reports
"Food is being used as a weapon by the ruling party Zanu PF"

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See also:

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