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3 February 2009

The cholera infection rate is steadily rising this week, with almost 2000 cases added to the official figures released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Monday. [...] The new figures come as Robert Mugabe has finally consented to allow a top level United Nations assessment team to tour Zimbabwe to find ways to curb the cholera epidemic as well as the devastating hunger crisis. Critical food shortages across the country have seen the number of Zimbabweans in need of food aid rise to almost seven million people, and the situation has forced the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) to half its monthly rations of maize to cater for as many people as possible. WFP officials have said the ration cut will allow the group to reach an estimated 5.1 million starving Zimbabweans, but have also acknowledged that the new ration ‘falls below what is considered a survival ration.’ Those fortunate enough to receive food packages ‘would now have to find additional means to stay alive,’ WFP regional spokesperson Richard Lee told the UK’s Guardian news service. But in a country where there are few food sources and many families have been forced to survive on scavenged fruit and seeds, ‘additional means’ will be hard to find.


2 February 2009

The U.N. chief said Monday that Zimbabwe's newly forged national unity government is an "imperfect" solution, and that it can only resolve the country's political crisis if President Robert Mugabe makes further progress. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon _ who met Mugabe on Sunday on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa _ said he urged him to move the country forward politically by taking important steps such as releasing political prisoners. [...] Zimbabwe has been in a political crisis since disputed presidential elections last year. Today, it has the world's highest official inflation rate, cholera has killed more than 3,000 people since August, and millions need food aid.


31 January 2009

After months of wrangling, Zimbabwe's opposition has agreed to join Robert Mugabe in a power-sharing government in the crisis-hit country. Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), will be sworn in as prime minister on 11 February, joining his bitter adversary in an unlikely political experiment. [...] The unity government faces an immediate battery of crises as the UN confirmed that cholera infections had hit 60,000 yesterday, just as the World Food Programme (WFP) said that food shortages would see it halve rations to millions of people in need of nutritional handouts.


30 January 2009

Stressing the uninterrupted opening of border crossings into the Gaza Strip, a UN official has said that meeting the immediate needs of Palestinians left traumatized and homeless by Israe’s three-week military offensive required the free flow of not just emergency food, but fuel, medicines and necessary building supplies. “From a logistic point of view... we are doing our best,” World Food Programme Regional Director for the Middle East Daly Belgasmi told a news briefing in New York on Thursday, stressing the need for a full opening of the crossing points, which Israel again briefly closed on Tuesday following a border bomb attack. “The crossing points are still an issue because it’s open today,it’s closed tomorrow, it’s open in the morning, it’s closed in the afternoon, and that has been a real challenge,” he said. “The food supply chain has collapsed.


30 January 2009

Zimbabwe's main opposition will join a unity government early next month, the party's leader said Friday, offering hope country's leaders can turn to addressing a humanitarian catastrophe. Earlier this week, Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change had rejected a recommendation from regional leaders that the coalition agreement stalled since September be implemented in early February. The reversal came amid speculation President Robert Mugabe would form a government on his own if the opposition did not come aboard. [...] The collapse of Zimbabwe's health and sanitation infrastructure under the weight of hyperinflation has made it difficult to contain cholera. Humanitarian groups also are battling a hunger crisis. The U.N. food program said Thursday that 7 million Zimbabweans _ 80 percent of the population by some estimates _ need food aid.


30 January 2009

The U.N.'s World Food Program will halve cereal rations for Zimbabweans next month because of an increase in the number of people in need of food aid, a spokesman said. Zimbabwe is facing chronic food shortages and seven million people, or half the population, will need handouts in February and March, according to the WFP. The agency opted to cut the monthly cereal ration to 5 kg (11 lb) per person to feed more people. "The main reason is that we are increasing the number of beneficiaries to 5.1 million in February, and this is substantially more than we had originally planned for," Richard Lee, WFP's spokesman for southern Africa, told Reuters. "We simply don't have the resources to provide a full ration to all 5.1 million people."


30 January 2009

After months of resisting intense pressure from leaders across southern Africa, Zimbabwe's opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, announced Friday that he would do as they have insisted and join a coalition government as prime minister with his nemesis, President Robert Mugabe. [...] Diplomats and opposition officials who have spoken with Tsvangirai said he felt a sense of urgency about joining the government because of the extremity of human suffering in the nation. It worsens by the day. A cholera epidemic is still out of control. More than 60,000 people have contracted the disease and more than 3,100 have died since August. And the economic crisis has worsened so suddenly and sharply that the number of people needing food aid in the next two months has risen to seven million from five million of the country's 12 million people, the United Nations World Food Program said Thursday. The UN agency is cutting its monthly rations - already insufficient - in half to 5 kilograms, or 11 pounds, of corn a person, hoping the hungry can scavenge enough in wild fruits and other foods to survive until the next harvest.


29 January 2009

The United Nations is to halve the food ration to millions of Zimbabweans, bringing it below what will keep an adult alive, as the numbers of people dependent on aid rises sharply and donations from foreign governments fall well short of demand. The World Food Programme is to cut the core maize ration in February from 10kg to 5kg a month – or just 600 calories a day – for 7 million Zimbabweans, about 70% of the people left in the country. The recommended ration is 12kg a month. As a result of the cuts, many Zimbabweans will be fortunate to eat once a day. [...] The WFP says it has cut the ration to meet increased demand and cope with a shortfall in donations. It says it requires another $65m to keep feeding Zimbabweans until the end of March. [...] Richard Lee, a WFP spokesman in southern Africa, said that while the calorie count would be boosted by a ration of beans and vegetable oil, recipients of food aid would now have to find additional means to stay alive.


29 January 2009

The death toll from Zimbabwe's worst ever cholera epidemic has climbed to over 3,000, with more than 57,000 infected by the water-borne disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported Wednesday. [...] Meanwhile, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced that around 500,000 Zimbabweans are set to benefit from its so-called "Safety Net" activities that support school-based feeding, people affected by HIV/AIDS and mobile and vulnerable populations.


29 January 2009

Thousands of Zimbabwean teachers are failing to return for the re-opening of the southern African nation’s schools this month because they can’t afford the commute to work, union leaders said. [...] At least 6.9 million Zimbabweans, or more than half of the population, need emergency food rations, Richard Lee, a spokesman for the UN World Food Programme, said today in a telephone interview from Johannesburg, South Africa.