Harare — DROUGHT, flooding and economic problems in Zimbabwe have plunged 7,7 million people into severe hunger.
This represents half the population, in what is the worst hunger crisis for more than a decade.
This has prompted the World Food Programme (WFP) to rapidly expand an already sizeable emergency operation in the Southern African country.
It plans to more than double the number of people it is helping by January to 4,1 million people.
"We are deep into a vicious cycle of sky-rocketing malnutrition that's hitting women and children hardest and will be tough to break," said WFP Executive Director, David Beasley.
He said the scale of hunger in Zimbabwe was going to worsen with poor rains forecast yet again in the run-up to the main harvest in April.
A dire shortage of foreign currency, runaway inflation, rising unemployment, lack of fuel, prolonged power outages and large-scale livestock losses are worsening the crisis in the country.
WFP required an estimated US$293 million (R4,288 billion) for its emergency response in Zimbabwe but has secured less than 30 percent of that sum.
"We urge the international community to step up funding to address the root causes of long-term hunger in Zimbabwe," Beasley said.
While Zimbabwe's hunger crisis is part of a climate-driven disaster gripping Southern Africa, controversial land policies by government destroyed commercial agriculture.
These include the haphazard distribution of land seized from mainly white commercial farmers since 2000.