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Last Updated: Monday, 22 December, 2003, 15:21 GMT
Zimbabweans face hungry Christmas
Woman with food aid
Zimbabwe is worst hit by the shortage of rains
Millions of Zimbabweans will go hungry this Christmas because international donors have failed to provide enough food, the United Nations has warned.

The World Food Programme said that more than 2.5m Zimbabweans would have their food rations halved over the festive season because of the shortfall.

The WFP says the outlook for 2004 is even worse.

January marks the beginning of the hungry season, when food supplies are usually at their lowest.

If the WFP does not receive new donations soon, it will have to cut rations even further.

It has been carrying out emergency feeding across Southern Africa since 2001; but more and more it is having to concentrate its efforts on Zimbabwe.

The BBC's Southern Africa correspondent, Barnaby Phillips, says the crisis is complex; erratic rains, disastrous economic policies, the upheavals of the land invasions and the spread of HIV/Aids have all played a part.

In the space of just a few years Zimbabwe has been transformed from a major food exporter to one of the most aid-dependent countries in the world.

Drought

Meanwhile, poor rainfall has hit the prospects for South African agriculture, with some farmers predicting the worst drought in a decade.

The price of maize has already risen so sharply that United Nations agencies are no longer purchasing from South Africa, turning to American and Canadian imports instead.

The WFP says South Africa currently has a two million tonne maize surplus from previous years, but that the outlook for farmers and consumers is bleak.




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