Africa

Zimbabwe hunger may spiral out of control, UN warns

Farmer inspects his dry land Image copyright AP
Image caption This is the second year in a row that Zimbabwe is experiencing drought conditions

Malnutrition rates in Zimbabwe are at risk of "spiralling out of control" if more is not done to prevent the crisis, the UN has warned.

The country has endured two years of failed rains, with this year's problems linked to the El Nino weather pattern.

Last month, President Robert Mugabe declared a state of disaster in rural parts of the country hit by a drought.

In January, nearly three million Zimbabweans needed food aid, but that figure may have risen.

The UN's children's agency, Unicef, said nearly 33,000 children were suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and they were in urgent need of treatment.

"We have not seen these levels of malnutrition in more than 15 years," Unicef's Zimbabwe representative Jane Muita said.

Image caption Provinces worst affected (source: Zimbabwe government, Feb 2016)

"Although the government and its partners are doing their best to assist, more needs to be done to prevent this crisis from spiralling out of control."

According to the most recent survey, published last month but carried out in January, 37% of households are hungry, twice the figure from May last year.

Unicef has appealed for $21m (£15m) to help continue its work supporting children.

Zimbabwe Unicef spokesman Victor Chinyama told the BBC that there might be a very low yield from this year's harvest, which could mean that things would be a lot worse by the end of the year.

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