UN forced to cut food aid to Zimbabwe's starving people

Half a million will go without emergency handouts this month, and more will be hungry in January. Meanwhile, Gordon Brown says it's time to tell Mugabe 'enough is enough'

Half a million people in Zimbabwe will go without food handouts this month, the UN agency responsible for feeding more than two-fifths of the country's population warned yesterday, as shortages of funds force further cuts in rations.

"We are still four months away from the [maize] harvest. We haven't seen the worst yet," Richard Lee, a spokesman for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Johannesburg, told The Independent on Sunday. "The situation has worsened more quickly than expected. We have reduced rations in December, and will have to do so again in January."

The food crisis has contributed to the rapid spread of the cholera epidemic now ravaging the country. So far nearly 600 people have died and more than 12,000 have been infected, according to the authorities, but the real figures are believed to be much higher as the disease takes its toll among people weakened by hunger.

The WFP expects 5.1 million Zimbabweans – well over half the nine million people remaining in the country – to need food aid by January. The target for this month was 4.2 million, but rations for only 3.7 million are available. "Rather than excluding entire households from the distribution, we have decided to set a maximum of six rations per household," Mr Lee said. "Families with more than that number of mouths to feed will have to share." In November the monthly ration per person was cut from 12kg of maize meal to 10kg, and from 1.8kg of beans to 1kg.

Drought this year drastically increased Zimbabwe's food deficit. The rains have been good so far this season, but the country's economic collapse means the area planted with grain is well below what is needed to feed the population. The WFP says it needs an extra $100m (£68m) to cover the shortfall up to March 2009.

With millions of Zimbabweans starving and cholera raging, Gordon Brown called on the international community yesterday to tell President Robert Mugabe that "enough is enough", saying: "The whole world is angry because they see avoidable deaths – of children, mothers, and families... This is a humanitarian catastrophe. This is a breakdown in civil society. It is a blood-stained regime that is letting down its own people."

As cholera spills across Zimbabwe's borders into neighbouring countries, Mr Brown said the crisis was an "international rather than a national emergency" that demanded a co-ordinated response. Since there was no administration willing or able to protect the people, Mr Brown said a "command and control structure" should be put in place in the capital, Harare, to manage aid efforts.

Mr Mugabe is not expected to heed Mr Brown's call – if anything, he is likely to use it as proof of his claim that Britain is seeking to recolonise Zimbabwe. The population is constantly told that its problems are due to sanctions imposed by Britain and the US, though in fact these are targeted only at the leadership. But the Mr Brown's strongest statement yet on Zimbabwe echoes growing anger in Africa at the death toll caused by the cholera epidemic and the political and economic breakdown from which it stems.

Desmond Tutu, the Nobel peace laureate, said last week that Mr Mugabe was "destroying a wonderful country" and should be deposed by force if he refused to step down. Kenya's Prime Minister, Raila Odinga, said earlier: "It's time for African governments to take decisive action to push him out of power."

Mr Brown did not explicitly call yesterday for Mr Mugabe to step down, but on Friday the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, said his departure from office was long overdue: "The fact is there was a sham election; there has been a sham process of power-sharing talks and now we are seeing not only political and economic total devastation... but a humanitarian toll of the cholera epidemic."

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

Day In a Page

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape