Zimbabwe: Hunger Looms As Skint Govt Admits Helpless

THE government has admitted that the country faces acute food shortages as it does not have the money to buy grain at a time an estimated two million people require food assistance.

Acting principal director in the department of Social Services Sydney Mhishi told a Parliamentary committee Tuesday that the money disbursed by Treasury for the whole year was only enough to buy 2,600 metric tonnes of grain against a monthly requirement of 10,000 tonnes.

“The critical period is this month,” he said.

“What we have US$1.6 million; if it was disbursed today, we can only purchase 666 tonnes of maize (against a monthly requirement of 10,000).”

To add to the sense of crisis, UN agency, the World Food Programme (WFP) said it was worried about the situation as the country moves towards its “peak hunger” season.

“It is the peak of the so-called ‘hunger season’ in Zimbabwe,” the agency said in a statement.

“WFP is very concerned about the food security situation in rural areas right now – in areas such as, Matabeleland North and South, Masvingo and Midlands and, because of a shortage of funding, we’re also concerned about our ability to respond to the needs of the people at this critical time.”

The agency says an estimated 2.2 million people – one in four of the rural population – will need food assistance during the pre-harvest period early this year. This is the highest number of people of help since early 2009 when more than half the population required food support.

The WFP said it has also been forced to cut its support to about one million people.[Full article]