WFP in race to feed 6.5 mln in southern Africa

Published on 23 January 2009

The U.N's World Food Programme needs to secure food aid for about 6.5 million people in southern Africa by April, the bulk of them in Zimbabwe where the humanitarian situation has worsened, a WFP official said on Friday. Zimbabwe alone has about 5.5 million people needing food aid and is also battling a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 2,500 people in Africa's worst outbreak in almost a decade. The early part of the year is usually the peak hunger season in southern Africa, falling just before the start of the harvest season in April. Poor crops, dwindling food supplies and a shortfall in funding have made the situation worse, WFP said. WFP's southern Africa spokesman Richard Lee said the agency would target people living with HIV/AIDS, orphans and children in school feeding programmes among others. "January, February, March every year is the hungriest time of the year in southern Africa because our main annual harvest ... starts coming in around April," Lee said. "So these three months are always the hardest because there are so many very poor, very vulnerable people in this region, and this is always the period when the most people struggle to find food for themselves and for their families.

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