UN to deliver food aid to Zimbabwe, fears 'major crisis'

File: Women carry boxes of food in the Mutoko rural area of Zimbabwe.

File: Women carry boxes of food in the Mutoko rural area of Zimbabwe.

AFP/Jekesai Njikizana

GENEVA - The United Nations said it was procuring food assistance for 4.1 million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the population in a country where shortages are being exacerbated by runaway inflation and climate-induced drought.

Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of southern Africa, is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by soaring inflation and shortages of food, fuel, medicines and electricity.

"We are very much concerned as the situation continues to deteriorate," Eddie Rowe, World Food Programme (WFP) country director, speaking from Harare, told a Geneva news briefing.

READ: UN launches new Zimbabwe appeal as millions face food crisis

"We believe if we do not reach out and assist these people then the situation would blow up into a major crisis," he said.

Zimbabwe has only had one year of normal rainfall in the last five and "markets are not functioning", he said. "There are families that go to bed hungry without a meal a day," Rowe added.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government will scrap its plan to remove grain subsidies next year, a move it says will protect impoverished citizens from rising food prices, state media reported last week.

READ: Zimbabwe scraps import controls on maize, wheat flour after drought

Rights groups say at least 17 people were killed and hundreds arrested in January, after security forces cracked down on protests against fuel price increases. Police have banned further protests.

"For a country that used to be breadbasket of southern Africa, the situation is nothing short of tragic," WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said.

Source
Reuters