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 Monday, 23 December, 2002, 09:01 GMT
Africa food shortages 'at crisis point'
Malnourished child in Zimbabwe
Famine is a threat across southern Africa

Aid agencies say food shortages in southern Africa are reaching a crisis point with more than 14 million people becoming dependent on food aid.

Supplies have been reaching the affected countries, preventing a widespread famine, but food reserves have completely run out and with at least three months to go before the next harvest is due, the situation is critical.

I have told my own people, we are lazy

Mundia Sikatana, Zambian Agriculture Minister
In Zambia, a debate over genetically modified crops has delayed food distribution and now the country's Agriculture Minister, Mundia Sikatana, is blaming his own people for the shortages.

Mr Sikatana said he was ashamed by the situation his country had found itself in.

He said Zambia had the resources and the land to feed southern Africa, and he blamed the Zambian people for not diversifying and for waiting for state aid.

"We must feel ashamed," he said.

"It is not the issue of the drought, it is ourselves. It is because we are not working hard. I have told my own people, we are lazy."

Berries and roots

Southern Zambia is thought to be one of the worst affected areas in the region, with crop failures at 98% creating a desperate situation.

Launch new window : Southern Africa famine
In pictures: Southern Africa famine

It is estimated that two thirds of the population need help in the lead up to the next harvest.

Even if the rains come and the maize crop is successful, people will have nothing to eat over the next three months but berries and roots or whatever aid can be delivered to them.

Thousands of tonnes of maize meal has been delivered to the country, but cannot be used as the Zambian Government has banned genetically modified grain of any kind.

The distribution of non-GM maize is under way but aid agencies say it has delayed their operation by two months.

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  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Alistair Leithead
"The aid is going through but there is a delay"

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Horn of Africa

Southern Africa

West Africa

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04 Dec 02 | Africa
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