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UN plans major aid operation to feed more than 500,000 people in Zimbabwe

UN plans major aid operation to feed more than 500,000 people in Zimbabwe

In response to the swelling number of Zimbabweans facing hunger, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today said it was planning a large-scale relief operation to help more than 500,000 people.

A team of WFP emergency experts who recently returned from Zimbabwe strongly recommended a major emergency intervention to feed 558,000 hungry people in rural areas who are not receiving assistance through bilateral food aid programmes.

"What we're seeing right now is a developing, complex emergency - a variety of serious problems which when added up, gravely threaten the lives of hundreds of thousands of people" in Zimbabwe, said Judith Lewis, WFP's Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa.

Already, many Zimbabweans average only one meal a day, or even go an entire day without food, WFP said. Many rural families have already consumed what little grain they managed to harvest last year and the ability to buy food on the market has been constrained by increasingly high prices, and limited opportunities to either earn cash through casual labour, or receive remittances from family or friends who work in urban areas or in South Africa.

According to WFP, Zimbabwe is normally a food surplus country but has seen a sharp deterioration in food security due to a combination of factors, including erratic rainfall, widespread flooding, rising food prices and a sharp downturn in the economy.

The agency plans to start operations later this month, with food aid arriving in December.