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Millions Of Zimbabweans At Risk Of Hunger - UN

Food shortages put millions of Zimbabweans at risk of hunger, warn UN agencies

18 June 2008 - The lack of fertilizer and seeds, economic constraints and adverse weather have led to food insecurity in Zimbabwe and threatens to plunge five million people into hunger by early next year, warns a new United Nations report which calls for emergency action by the Government and the international community.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) estimate that some two million people in rural and urban areas will be food insecure between July and September of this year.

That number is expected to rise to 3.8 million people between October "and peaking to about 5.1 million at the height of the hungry season between January and March 2009."

In a special joint report released today –"FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission to Zimbabwe" - the agencies note that maize production in 2008 is estimated at 575,000 tonnes, some 28 per cent lower than last year.

Meanwhile, cereal supply is expected to be about 40 per cent lower than in 2007. "The food insecure population will require food assistance amounting to some 395,000 tonnes of cereals in 2008/09," states the report.

In addition, the agencies say that "newly-settled farmers cultivate only about half of the prime land allocated to them," owing to factors such as shortages of equipment and fuel, lack of infrastructure and absenteeism on the part of some new settlers.

The decrease in food production, coupled with the world's highest inflation rate, has eroded the purchasing power of households "dramatically" and increased food insecurity, according to the report.

The agencies call for emergency assistance by the Government and the international community, including the supply of timely and quality seed and fertilizer. They also recommend opening up trading in cereals to private traders to ensure that cereals can be imported and moved quickly to areas of need and reform of the grain marketing system.

In addition, the report suggests that the international community and the Government work together to promote investment in agriculture and promote sustainable food production and overall food security.

The UN is currently assisting more than four million people in the country, about a third of Zimbabwe's population.

ENDS

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