- Red Cross in Zimbabwe has resumed emergency food distribution to reach 24, 000 vulnerable communities across the country.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said trucks carrying 383 metric tonnes of food left warehouses in Harare, Bulawayo and Mutare as part of federation's US$26.8 million food security operation, which would feed 260,100 Zimbabweans a month.
"This is a critical period for these communities," says Peter Lundberg, head of IFRC's delegation in Harare. "They have already faced months without enough food and, for many families, the situation has deteriorated drastically in recent weeks."
Chronic food shortages in Zimbabwe is blamed on alternating droughts and the country's ongoing socio-economic decline, which has led to severe shortages of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilisers.
The country's hyper-inflation of 11 million percent, making it a world-record, has also made it difficult for ordinary Zimbabweans to afford food.
Françoise Le Goff, head of IFRC's Southern Africa zone said the group is also vulnerable to food shortages.
"Many of these people are on anti-retroviral medication (ART). For these drugs to work effectively, people need food. Without a full stomach, many of those on ART are now choosing to default on their treatment as they can't cope with debilitating side effects," says Ms Le Goff.
According to health authorities in Masvingo Province - one of the regions worst affected by food crisis - 70 per cent of people on ART have defaulted in recent months because of lack of food. Once treatment is stopped, HIV virus typically returns with a vengeance, causing a rapid deterioration in health.
United Nations estimates that number of Zimbabweans requiring food aid would rise from about two million during the period between July and September 2008 to more than 5.1 million by next harvest in March/April 2009.
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