More than a million Zimbabweans will require food assistance between now and March of next year despite improvements in domestic grain production, the United Nations World Food Program said on Monday.
The WFP said the warning is based on a recent study by the government, United Nations agencies and other donor organizations which found that 12 percent of the rural population won’t be able to feed itself through the pre-harvest hunger season.
Those most at risk are low-income families hit by failed harvests in the past year and households with orphans and other vulnerable children.
Production of staple maize has recovered since Zimbabwe's national unity government was formed in early 2009, rising from less than 500,000 tonnes in the 2007-2008 season to 1.45 million tonnes in the 2010-2011 cropping season. But production remains below the required 2 million tonnes the country needs to be self-sufficient.
"Although food is generally available in many rural areas, it is too expensive for those with limited resources," the WFP said in a statement.
WFP spokesman Robert Makasi in Harare said the organization has already started feeding the vulnerable but faces a funding shortfall of $42 million to provide food aid in the hardest-hit areas of the country up to when the harvest begins in March.
Agriculture Minister Joseph Made said all eyes are on Finance Minister Tendai Biti to see how much he will allocate to agricultural inputs in his budget on Tuesday.
Made said the national meteorological service expects a normal rainy season, ensuring that farmers with enough seed and fertilizer should bring in good harvests.
The government recently allocated $45 million to provide or subsidize farm inputs.