A Zimbabwean state-owned newspaper reported on Tuesday that up to 4 million people now require food aid in the country, as the southern African nation struggles with its worst drought in more than two decades.
The drought caused by an El Nino weather pattern has hit Zimbabwe hard and the country appealed for $1.6 billion in aid to help pay for grain and other food.
"Indications are that the figure of vulnerable households requiring food assistance could be as high as four million people," Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Prisca Mupfumira, said without giving further information.
Mupfumira said that the government stocks of maize, the staple food, were 91,326 tonnes as of March 10, which can be enough to last three months. She did not give details of stocks held by private millers and farmers.
The Zimbabwean government has issued licenses to private millers to import grain as organisations such as the United Nations’ World Food Programme, which are feeding one million people.
The drought and low mineral commodity prices are worsening the economy. Zimbabwean Finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, said last week that the economy was “under siege.”
As the year progresses, farmers, who have already lost cattle and crops, fear more pain.
The El Nino weather pattern has also brought poor rains to other countries in the region, including South Africa, its biggest maize grower.
This El Nino is expected to end towards the middle of the year.