Picture: Times Media Group
Picture: Times Media Group

THE number of Zimbabweans who will need emergency food aid this year may have doubled or trebled from last year, Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira said.

The Southern African nation is facing its worst drought in almost two decades, which is withering crops and killing cattle as water sources run dry.

"From the indications so far, the amount of food aid may double or even treble since our last food assessment," Ms Mupfumira said in an interview on Sunday in Harare. Last year, the government said about 1.5-million people needed emergency food, out of an estimated population of 12-million.

Zimbabwe traditionally conducts food-availability assessments before the country’s rainy season begins in October and at the end of the season in April, gauging both the amount of food planted and the amount harvested. In drought years, a mid-season crop assessment is conducted to forewarn the government and millers of impending shortages.

Ms Mupfumira said the Zimbabwean government had told the Rome-based World Food Programme, a branch of the United Nations, that the country faced serious food shortages this year.

Another food survey will be conducted between April and June, after the crop has been harvested. Food surveys concentrate on the availability of maize, the staple food. Zimbabwe consumes about 1.8-million tonnes of the grain a year.

The drought has also affected SA and Zambia, the region’s biggest maize producers respectively.

Bloomberg