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WFP plans food relief for 3.8m Zimbabweans

People are seen at a busy market in a poor township on the outskirts of the capital Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov 15, 2021. (TSVANGIRAYI MUKWAZHI / AP)

HARARE – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is planning a food relief program targeting 3.8 million people in Zimbabwe from October as the effects of a poor harvest and the Ukraine crisis continue to show, an official has said.

The southern African country has been struggling to feed itself since 2000, when former leader Robert Mugabe championed the seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless Black people.

The United Nations World Food Programme said it had budgeted US$40 million for the food aid program to cushion millions over the peak of the hunger season from October, when poor households run out of food stocks, to March, when harvesting starts

Zimbabwe's government has said it expects its staple maize harvest to fall by almost half this year, to 1.56 million tonnes from last season's multi-year record of 2.72 million tonnes, due to poor rainfall in the 2021-22 growing season.

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The country requires 2.2 million tonnes of maize annually for human and livestock consumption.

WFP said it had budgeted US$40 million for the food aid program to cushion millions over the peak of the hunger season from October, when poor households run out of food stocks, to March, when harvesting starts.

"I do not think this is a famine as yet, but that does not mean that it is good. We are preparing for a response that will take off in October up to March. We are working with the government on a joint plan for the food deficit mitigation program and that is for 3.8 million people," WFP country representative Franscesca Erldelmann told Reuters.

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She said the number of food insecure people had shot up from 2.9 million to 3.8 million, warning that more households could go hungry as grain stocks dwindle.

Rising food prices, coupled with higher fuel costs after Russia's special military operation in Ukraine, have driven Zimbabwe's inflation from 61 percent in January to 285 percent in August, undermining President Emmerson Mnangagwa's efforts to revive the country's economy.

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