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Zimbabwe Declares State of Disaster Over Food Shortage

FILE - Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the 26 ordinary of the African Union Summit in Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, Jan. 30, 2016.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has declared a state of disaster in many rural areas of Zimbabwe, amid a severe drought that has left more than a quarter of the population facing food shortages.

The government said in a statement Friday the drought is due in part to the El Nino weather phenomenon and has left 26 percent of the population in need of food aid.

Public Works Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said in the statement that initial indications show 2.44 million people are "food insecure," including all 60 of Zimbabwe's rural districts.

Critics of the president also blame Mugabe's controversial land-use reforms enacted in 2000 for exacerbating the country's economic problems as well as reducing its output.

Zimbabwe's neighbors in southern Africa are also suffering the effects of the drought, which follows the hottest year recorded in modern times, according to U.S. weather officials.

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