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Hunger-Stricken Zimbabwe Villagers Trade Off Livestock at Low Prices

Hundreds of villagers in Zimbabwe's drought-ravaged Matabeleland and Midlands regions have started selling off their livestock at below-market rates to raise money for food as humanitarian aid agencies continue to assess the situation on the ground.

Starving households are now trading their cattle for between $150 and $200 a beast, instead of the market price of $500, just to save their families from hunger, VOA was told.

Some villagers revealed they had since resorted to gold panning and other illicit activities to raise money for food.

A number of aid agencies stopped distributing food handouts to the needy in March when the harvest period set in. They are currently assessing the situation.

The government has since declared five provinces in the country disaster areas. Zimbabwe has suffered serious food shortfalls over the past years due to successive droughts.

Gwanda villager Stephen Sibanda said he feared some people may starve to death if relief agencies did not intervene timely.

“The situation is desperate in most parts of Gwanda South where the majority of people are now surviving on one meal a day,” said Sibanda.

Gwanda lawmaker Thandeko Zinti Mnkandla said aid was needed urgently. "We hope non-governmental organizations will respond to the villagers' desperate appeal for food aid," he said.

The government has a grain scheme targeting especially the vulnerable, but the food program has been plagued by allegations of corruption and politicization by loyalists of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF party.

Development worker Faith Ncube said the state food program was not reaching the needy.