PEOPLE in the southern region of the country are facing starvation as food shortages have reached critical levels with villagers exchanging their livestock for maize and other basic foodstuffs.
Reports from Tsholotsho, Binga, Hwange, Gokwe and Gwanda indicate that there was a food crisis in these areas.
The southern region, made up of the three Matabeleland provinces, Midlands and Masvingo, are in the drought-prone parts of the country and are usually the hardest hit by food shortages.
Signs of a looming hunger are evident almost everywhere in Zimbabwe’s countryside where the majority of villagers are dependent on food aid from non-governmental organisations.
An official from the governor’s office in Matabeleland North, who spoke on condition that he was not named, said the food situation was critical in the province as maize deliveries were very low.
The official said the maize the state-controlled Grain Marketing Board (GMB) was receiving was not enough to cater for villagers, adding that the food crisis in the province was a disaster waiting to happen.
“Maize stocks are inadequate and all the GMB depots in the province have not been receiving maize frequently,” the official said. “They (maize deliveries) have been erratic except for the Bacossi packs that were supplied to a selected number of villagers long ago.”
However, Matabeleland North governor Sithokozile Mathuthu said talk of food shortages was false.
“The media is imagining all the food shortage stories they are writing about,” Mathuthu said.
“We have maize coming to the GMB on a daily basis and we have records to prove that there is plenty of food for everyone. All the food shortage stories are false.”
She said the government was importing food and in circumstances where there were shortages, the deliveries would have been delayed.
In Matobo district of Matabeleland South villagers are exchanging their livestock for maize and other basic commodities.
Goods that are exchanged for livestock include cooking oil, sugar, soap and salt.
Zimbabwe’s food situation has deteriorated to critical levels with maize, the staple food for Zimbabweans, being unavailable in shops.
This week, Prime Minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai said the country was facing a “disastrous” food crisis and called for the urgent formation of a new power-sharing government.
“We need to respond to this crisis with utmost urgency. It is therefore imperative that a government be formed in the next few days and begins to implement plans to ensure that our people have food and do not die of starvation,” Tsvangirai told reporters in Harare.
Earlier this year, the United Nations estimated that more than five million people out of a population of 12 million would require food assistance in the first quarter of 2009.
The United States-based Famine Early Warning Systems Network warned last week that Zimbabwe could run out of cereals by November.
By Loughty Dube