More than two million Zimbabweans urgently need food assistance amid indications the country's harvest this year will fall short of needs, according to the International Red Cross, which has issued an appeal seeking $25 million dollars from donors.
The Red Cross said about 2.17 million Zimbabweans are in dire need, and this number is growing because of drought in some areas and excessive rain in others, devastating maize crops across Zimbabwe.
President Robert Mugabe recently blamed the bad harvest on new farmers who he said failed to harness water for irrigation. Many blame Mr. Mugabe himself for the general decline in the agricultural sector over the past decade, pointing to the tumultuous and violent land reform program that displaced thousands of farmers and hundreds of thousands of farm workers.
Program Officer Fambai Ngirande of the Inter-Church Organization for Development Cooperation said the government has not not taken strong enough action to address the food shortages the country now faces.
Bhekimpilo Khanye, executive assistant to the World Vision national director, told reporter Brenda Moyo that his organization will carry out its own food assessment countrywide soon.
Economists and aid officials paint a grim picture of general food availability and food costs, which have soared out of reach for many families. Food prices rose more than 20 percent from January to February, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe said. Urban residents as well as rural families are in need of aid.
For a closer look at food supplies and pricing VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere turned to Chief Economist Prosper Chitambara of the Labor and Economic Research Development Institute of Zimbabwe and Christian Care National Director Reverend Forbes Matonga.
Chitambara said urban incomes are well under the poverty line of US$524 a month, making proper nutrition unaffordable to many.
Zambian government is extending US$500,000 in assistance to Zimbabwe, part of it under a humanitarian grant pledged last year when a deadly cholera epidemic was sweeping the country.
Zambian Home Affairs Minister Lameck Mangani told reporter Gibbs Dube that Lusaka pledged US$26,000 in 2009 to help fight the epidemic, and has topped that up to help a neighbor which is struggling.