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 Tuesday, 24 December, 2002, 16:03 GMT
Zambians 'desperate' for help
A village in Zambia
Despite the lush appearance, people here are hungry

The food shortages across southern Africa are entering a critical stage as food reserves have now run out and people are facing a long wait before there is any chance of a harvest.

Aid agencies are supplying thousands of tons of food and seed across the region, but are battling to supply more than fourteen million people who are in desperate need of help.

In Zambia, a genetically modified food debate has delayed the delivery of food and the agriculture minister is blaming his people.

No irrigation

Maize in a depot in the Siavongo province is ready to be trucked out to some of the most inaccessible and most desperate parts of southern Zambia.

The are is the worst hit: 98% of last year's crop failed and two-thirds of the people need food.

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

They are living on roots and barbs that need to be boiled for eight hours to make them edible, and are far from nutritious.

A drought takes much of the blame, but southern Zambia has one of the biggest man-made lakes in the world.

The land is green and lush, there is plenty of water, but no irrigation.

A child and his dog (Photo: IFRC)
There are not enough resources to help Zambia's orphans

The people rely on rain to grow their crops.

The country's agriculture minister, Mundia Sikatana, has said it is time for Zambia and Zambians to look after themselves.

"We must feel ashamed. It's not the issue of the drought, it's ourselves. It is because we're not working hard. I have told my own people, we are lazy," he said.

The government is advocating cash crops as the way forward, encouraging farmers to grow for export.

High-quality vegetables are already exported to the UK and Europe, in contrast to the shortages in the countryside.

Irrigation schemes are promised, but they are far from the long-term.

Right now the country is dependent on foreign aid, and three million people continue to suffer.


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