Caritas Internationalis, a Rome-based charity organization, has sounded the alert for a food shortage affecting more than a quarter of a million Tanzanians. The alert was based on information from the U.S.-funded Famine Early Warning System and a vulnerability assessment study carried out by Caritas earlier this year. The organization says half of the country’s 30 dioceses will face serious food shortages over the next several months. Caritas, which works closely with the World Food Program, is appealing for almost $800,000 dollars in food aid for more than 251,000 people and seeds for some 5,000 drought-plagued families. Between now and June, when the new harvest begins, Caritas Tanzania will distribute the staple crop maize to needy households in 44 districts. The secretary-general of Caritas, Duncan MacClaren, told English to Africa reporter Howard Lesser that insufficient rainfall produced a record 80 percent crop failure in two northern Tanzania districts – Ngorongoro and Karatu.