The United Nations has significantly increased the amount of money it is seeking from donors to meet Zimbabwe's humanitarian needs, calling for 2009 contributions of US $718 million compared with US $550 million when the appeal was first issued last November.

Only U.S. $246 million had come from donors as of May 26, U.N. officials said.

U.N. Zimbabwe Coordinator Agostinho Zacharias told reporters in a briefing Monday that the request needed to be significantly increased because of the deterioration in the country's humanitarian situation in the wake of a major cholera epidemic, among other factors.

Food insecurity also intensified during the interim since the initial appeal was made, though some rural dwellers now are bringing in a better-than-expected maize crop.

And though there has been some improvement in health, education and water services due to an influx of relief during the epidemic, "staggering" humanitarian needs remain and given the severity of the economic decline and its impact on livelihoods "it is unlikely the humanitarian needs will lessen in the short term," a U.N. report said.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Harare.

Spokesman Fambai Ngirande of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the unity government's effectiveness running the social welfare system will determine if the appeal succeeds.

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