3 September 2013

Zimbabwe: Food Crisis Looms As UN Warns of Widespread Hunger

Days after endorsing Zimbabwe as the tourism leader for Africa, the United Nations (UN) has warned that the country is facing a serious food crisis, with more than two million people needing assistance.

Zimbabwe was named as the tourism ambassador for Africa by the UN's World Tourism Organisation last week.

But another arm of the UN, the World Food Programme, on Tuesday said that one in four of Zimbabwe's rural population is expected to need food assistance in the coming few months, saying this "is the highest since early 2009 when more than half the population required food support."

The UN group said that the high levels of food insecurity are attributed to various factors including adverse weather conditions, the unavailability and high cost of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilisers and projected high cereal prices due to the poor maize harvest.

The group's Deputy Country Director for Zimbabwe, Abdurrahim Siddiqui told SW Radio Africa that the World Food Programme has a plan to start assisting up to 1.8 million of the estimated 2.2 million people facing serious hunger.

"Zimbabwe is chronically food deficient and the long term solution is a holistic intervention. In the short terms with regards to immediate intervention, we are scaling up our targeted assistance, meaning we will be distributing food and cash for cereals and other foods. We will probably reach up to 1.8 million people by January," Siddiqui said.

Commercial Farmers Union President Charles Taffs agreed with the UN report, adding that the figures "might actually be an underestimate in terms of how many people need food."

But he said Zimbabwe was in the midst of a man-made agricultural crisis, after more than a decade of destructive policies, namely the land grab campaign. Taffs said that political will was now critical to bring Zimbabwe back from the brink.

"We have been avoiding dealing with this issue for too long now. Zimbabwe has the resources, it has the land, and it has the ability to produce food. Now we need investor confidence to be restored and farming to resume," Taffs said.

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