HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – About half of Zimbabweâ€™s population faces severe hunger amid a devastating drought and economic collapse, the United Nations said Tuesday, noting a â€œvicious cycle of skyrocketing malnutrition thatâ€™s hitting women and children hardest.â€
The World Food Program said it plans to more than double the number of people it helps to more than 4 million. More than 7 million people overall are in need.
A U.N. expert on the right to food last week said Zimbabwe is on the brink of man-made starvation and the number of people needing help is â€œshockingâ€ for a country not in conflict.
With poor rains expected before the harvest in April, the scale of hunger will worsen, the World Food Programâ€™s executive director David Beasley said in a statement.
Zimbabweâ€™s crushing economic crisis, the worst in a decade, and a drought across southern Africa will complicate aid delivery as prices for basic items soar and food supplies are lower than normal, the U.N. said.
Inflation is â€œskyrocketing to over 490%,â€ according to the U.N. expert, Hilal Elver. Thatâ€™s the second highest rate in the world after Venezuela.
Zimbabweâ€™s crisis includes high unemployment, cash and water shortages and electricity outages of up to 19 hours a day.
Elver said she found stunted and underweight children, mothers too hungry to breastfeed their babies and medicine shortages in hospitals during her 10-day visit to the once prosperous country.
She warned that the food crisis could spark conflict if not averted.
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