Zimbabwe faces food shortage

With not enough food to feed all 12.5 million Zimbabweans and funding requirements to provide urgently-needed aid only half met, the United Nations humanitarian arm warned that the situation in the Southern African nation remains acute.

Even with commercial imports, there will be a 180,000 ton cereal deficit for 2009-2010, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

According to an assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Program (WFP) and Zimbabwean Government, only 1.4 million tons of cereal will be available domestically, compared to the more than 2 million needed.

Even assuming that 500,000 tons will be imported, there will still be a significant gap, OCHA warned.

The FAO-WFP assessment found that in spite of increased agricultural production this year, with the maize crop to have more than doubled, high food insecurity persists in Zimbabwe. This year’s abundant rainfall has resulted in the amount of maize harvested – 1.14 metric tons – recording a 130 per cent increase over 2008. But study warned that this winter’s wheat harvest is only expected to yield 12,000 tons, the lowest ever, due to the high cost of fertilizers and seeds, farmers’ lack of funds and the unreliable electricity supply for irrigation.

Some 600,000 households will also be receiving agricultural help – supplied by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and funded by 10 donors – in the form of seeds, legumes and fertilizer, OCHA said today.

FAO suggested that additional resources be channeled into providing top-dressing fertilizer, which is needed later than at seed planting, but cautioned that it must reach farmers before the end of this November.

Only 47 per cent of the $718 million needed to assist Zimbabwe, less than half has been committed to date, OCHA noted.

The funds are intended to boost access to clean water for 6 million people, feed nearly 3 million people and assist 1.5 million children in getting educations.

Currently, 22,000 children under the age of five in Zimbabwe are in need of being treated for severe acute malnutrition, while maternal and child under-nutrition is largely responsible for over 12,000 deaths, or one-third, of all deaths of all under-five children.

OCHA reported today that while no cholera cases or deaths from the disease have been reported in the country since early last month, nearly10,000 cumulative cases and over 4,200 deaths have occurred.

Aid agencies have been preparing for another outbreak by pre-positioning emergency kits around the country.

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