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UN warns of food 'catastrophe' in Zimbabwe

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The World Food Programme (WFP) said 7.7 million Zimbabweans, half the population, need food aid after a devastating drought and cyclone last year. Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

The World Food Programme (WFP) said 7.7 million Zimbabweans, half the population, need food aid after a devastating drought and cyclone last year. Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

AP/PA Images

The World Food Programme (WFP) said 7.7 million Zimbabweans, half the population, need food aid after a devastating drought and cyclone last year. Photo: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

The United Nations food agency has said it needs $130m (€119m) to fund emergency operations in Zimbabwe until August and prevent a catastrophe in the southern African nation, as food shortages caused by climate and recession deepen.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said 7.7 million Zimbabweans, half the population, need food aid after a devastating drought and cyclone last year. A lack of predictable rains this year has affected crops, compounding the situation.

The coronavirus pandemic has added to the pressure. Zimbabwe has recorded only three deaths and 11 cases, but economists predict that the country could face a second successive recession this year as the pandemic shuts down large parts of the global economy.

Zimbabwe's mining industry, the largest single earner of foreign exchange, has already signalled that exports could fall by a quarter due to the effects of coronavirus.

"With most Zimbabweans already struggling to put food on the table, the Covid-19 pandemic risks even wider and deeper desperation," WFP director for Zimbabwe Eddie Rowe said in a statement.

"We must all do our utmost to prevent this tragedy turning into a catastrophe."

The WFP said inflation, at 540pc in February, was pushing prices of staples beyond the means of most Zimbabweans, forcing families to eat less and sell off belongings or go into debt.

Zimbabwe is under a 21-day lockdown but some residents have complained that this risks exacerbating the situation. More than 80pc of the working population ekes out a living in the informal sector, leaving them with few protections.

The government says the lockdown is necessary to contain the spread of the virus, which has killed more than 81,000 people globally.

Irish Independent