Number of hungry in Zim doubles: Report

2016-02-01 13:49

Harare - Up to 3 million Zimbabweans will likely need food aid this year, double the number previously thought, a government minister has been quoted as saying in a media report.

President Robert Mugabe's government now believes the number of those in need of food have massively increased because of the current drought, Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira told the official Herald newspaper. 

The country has a population of about 13 million. Last year the UN and Zimbabwean authorities set the figure of those expected to need assistance at 1.5 million. 

Since then "distress calls" have mounted, Mupfumira was quoted as saying.

She told the newspaper: "We are using food distribution registers which show that the number of those in need of food aid has doubled from 1.5 million last year."

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused Mugabe's government of showing "a casual and rather lackadaisical attitude" towards the impending food crisis.

Spokesman Obert Gutu said in a statement that state-owned grain silos, which should hold food stocks, were "still empty and in a serious state of disrepair".

Drought has hit Zimbabwe and much of southern Africa hard. The UN and the US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network said in its January bulletin that more than 90% of Zimbabwe had received below-average rainfall.

Some southern and western areas had received less than half of normal rainfall amounts for this period. 

"Area planted to cereals is significantly lower than last year," it added.

At least 16,000 head of cattle had died, according to reports this week.

The state-controlled Sunday News, which is based in Bulawayo in southern Zimbabwe, reported that villagers in some parts of Matabeleland South province could only manage one meal per day or even one meal every two days "just to spread their maize-meal supplies."

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