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Security Council Briefing Highlights Deepening Zimbabwe Food Crisis

A United Nations Security Council discussion of the crisis in Zimbabwe on Thursday failed to tackle its political dimensions as intended by Britain, but the session brought forth a warning that the country's chronic food shortages could get even worse.

Director Rashid Khalikov of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, briefing the Security Council, said a projected maize harvest of 600,000 tonnes would fall well short of the country’s annual requirement of 1.8 million tonnes.

He said his office expects "a significant increase in food-insecure people in 2007." In 2006, he told the council, some 1.4 million rural dwellers were "food insecure."

Despite the grim projections, Khalikov said, "The government insists it will not ask for external food assistance because it has the capacity to feed its own people."

Agriculture Minister Rugare Gumbo declared this week that Harare would not require outside aid, though he has acknowledged that crops are suffering under drought.

Yet Reuters reported Friday that Zimbabwe's ambassador to the European Union had informed officials in Brussels that he would submit a request for food aid.

A joint mission of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program is expected in Zimbabwe soon to assess conditions.

For a view from the ground, reporter Patience Rusere turned to Deputy Director Nyika Musiyazviriyo of Christian Care, one of the main organizations involved in distributing food aid. He echoed Khalikov's warning that worsening hunger threatens.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 For Zimbabwe...