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Food aid keeps Zimbabwe alive

Maxmore Mhazo brightens as he talks about how food handouts from aid agencies have saved lives at his Zimbabwean village, but he is worried by the dwindling size of the portions.

"Many of us would be dead were it not for these donations," the 74-year-old retired mine worker said as he and scores of others in Chirumanzu lined up for food packages from British aid agency Oxfam and the World Food Programme.

Each got a pack containing maize, a pint of cooking oil and a bar of laundry soap, but that was less than they had received in the past three months because of the strain put on donors trying to fight Zimbabwe's multiplying problems.

"We are doomed without this programme," Mhazo said at the village of Chirumanzi in central Zimbabwe.

The food crisis is due to the collapse of the agricultural sector and economic meltdown, exacerbated by political deadlock between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition.

An estimated 5 million Zimbabweans, about 40 percent of the population, are surviving on food aid.

Donors expect that number to grow, but they are also diverting money from food aid to fight a cholera epidemic that has already killed more than 2,100 people and their appeals for more funding are not being met in full.

Although the southern African nation has had good rains during the current growing season, many farmers did not receive enough seeds or fertiliser.


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