The World Food Program warns it will have to cut food rations for millions of hungry people in Zimbabwe because it is running out of cash. WFP says its money crunch is coming at a time when the number of people requiring food aid is on the rise. Lisa Schlein reports from Geneva.
The World Food Program says the food crisis in Zimbabwe is worsening. In October, WFP fed two million people. Because of the worsening situation, the U.N. agency says it plans to double that to nearly four million this month.
But, WFP says it is running out of cash. So, it says it will have to cut rations in order to stretch the quantity of food it has to feed more people.
WFP spokeswoman, Emilia Casella, tells VOA the cereal ration will be cut from 12 kilograms to 10 kilograms a person per month. And, the pulse ration will be cut almost in half to one kilogram a person.
"This is extremely serious," Casella said. "But, what is even more concerning is that there is currently no food in the pipeline for distributions in January and February. And, we expect in the early part of 2009 that the number of people in Zimbabwe who will need assistance will reach 5.1 million people. That is 45 percent of the population of Zimbabwe needing food assistance."
WFP has appealed for $140 million to fund its operations in Zimbabwe until the end of March. To date, it has received nothing. Spokeswoman Casella says donations are urgently needed as it takes between six and eight weeks from the time money is received to get food on a person's table.
She says people are resorting to drastic measures to survive. For instance, she says many people are only eating one meal a day.
"People are out in the countryside seeking wild foods," Casella said. "Many people have been forced to sell all their assets. People are down to selling their livestock and once they do that, their ability to bounce back is even further compromised. What we are looking at here is that many, many farmers were unable to harvest anything, or very little. And, they do not have money to buy food."
Casella says the projections for the next harvest in April are not very good. She says people do not have the seeds and the resources to plant a good crop. If this grim forecast comes true, she says the current food crisis in Zimbabwe will reach new heights.