Mounting and already severe food shortages in all parts of Zimbabwe have lent new impetus to the quest for a solution to the political and economic crisis, analysts say.
Chronic food shortages over the years have taken a heavy toll, particularly in children, with malnutrition widespread and the distended child bellies of kwashiorkor appearing even in urban settings, as reported recently by Harare public health officials.
The 2005-2006 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey, compiled by the Central Statistical Office, reported stunted growth in 29% of children under the age of five. The Harare City Council's health department collaborated in the study.
Meanwhile, consumer desperation has led to tragic incidents such as a stampede for extremely scarce sugar in Bulawayo, resulting in three deaths.
Economists say the scarcity of staple goods has been exacerbated by the government drive since last month to reduce prices by fiat, which emptied supermarket shelves as Zimbabweans rushed in to purchase leaving merchants with heavy losses.
The government has allowed some prices to rise to draw goods back into the market, including those of sugar, tea and chicken, but little improvement is reported.
Perspective on the acute shortages of food items and other basic commodities was provided by independent development consultant Roger Mpande and Advocacy and Communications Manager Fambai Ngirande of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations.
Mpande told reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the food emergency in the country is reaching critical proportions.
From Mutare, reporter Loirdham Moyo reported that millers complain they often go for days without receiving grain allocations from the state-run Grain Marketing Board, reflecting disruption in the supply chain of the national staple maize meal.