The U.N. World Food Program says hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans are starting to run out of food and made an urgent funding appeal to donor countries. Peta Thornycroft reports for VOA that the WFP normally reduces its food assistance to Zimbabwe at this time because there is usually enough food available from the recent harvest.
The World Food Program says it has to urgently begin feeding up to 3.3 million Zimbabweans and is seeking $118 million to expand its aid program.
The statement says hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have begun to run out of food and that several million more will be reliant on food aid by the end of the year.
The WFP regional director for southern Africa, Amir Abdulla, says WFP plans to feed more than 10 times the current number of beneficiaries during the next eight months to avert the threat of widespread hunger.
Without donations, the agency says its food stocks will begin to run dry next month.
Since independence from Britain in 1980, Zimbabwe only needed one short burst of food aid during a catastrophic regional drought in 1992. After President Robert Mugabe began seizing about four-thousand white-owned commercial farms in 2000, Zimbabwe has continuously needed western food aid.
The World Food Program is aware that many of those now suffering from hunger are people in urban areas where essential foods have disappeared from supermarkets following President Mugabe's campaign of slashing retail prices of food and other services by about 50 percent.
Zimbabwe's economy has been in free fall for more than five years. But recently hyperinflation and an almost worthless local currency has inflicted unprecedented suffering on Zimbabweans.
The United States, Britain, and the European Union have been the largest donors of humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe since the crisis began with the confiscation of productive farms. This year the United States has donated almost $46 million.
The World Food Program says it and other partners will feed about four million people, a third of the population, before the next harvest in April. Donors say they will not be surprised if this figure also increases.