Citing recent United Nations data indicating more than two million Zimbabweans may be unable to meet their food needs by the end of September, a figure which could rise to 5.1 million by early 2009, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Wednesday called for international donors to contribute US$26.6 million to fend off hunger.

Red Cross Southern African spokesman Matthew Cochrane said the appeal could be expanded as the need grows through the first quarter of next year.

Cochrane said the appeal was based on a June 18 report issued by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program saying Zimbabweans in need of aid could rise to 3.8 million from October to December and surge to over 5 million in January-March of 2009 ? affecting about 45% of Zimbabwe?s population.

Cochrane told reporter Patience Rusere that the Red Cross has the full backing of donors and the Harare government as the ban on distribution of food by non-governmental organizations imposed in early June by the government does not affect the Red Cross.

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