Deaths reported as thousands starve in Mozambique

News and Press Release
Originally published
MAPUTO, Feb 6 (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of people face severe food shortages in drought-ravaged southern Mozambique and more deaths by starvation were reported in the north, government and U.N. officials said on Thursday.

Nine people starved to death in January in the remote northern province of Tete, where floods had driven thousands of people from their homes and hampered food relief efforts.

On Thursday, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF also confirmed the deaths after an assessment trip, adding a 10th person had already died in November.

According to the victims' families, the deaths were due to hunger, the agencies said.

"On 29 January, three more deaths were reported in Chitete. This could not be verified yet,'' the agencies said in a joint statement. Chitete is in Tete province.

More than 14 million people in six southern African countries -- Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland and Lesotho -- face food shortages because drought and floods destroyed crops in the 2001/2002 season.

The WFP said they found the situation grim in another area of Tete. Food stocks had been used up weeks ago and families that migrated from neighbouring Zimbabwe were heading back home.

"People are living on wild fruit like Malambe and Tamarind. They have no access to safe water,'' said the WFP and UNICEF in a joint statement.

In the south, 119,500 people were affected after drought dried up maize fields for the second consecutive year, said Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Helder Muteia.

The only water the province had seen this year had been some light showers. Small dams had dried up.

"It is a very complicated situation, the drought has been there since last year and this time it is more than worse because our efforts to encourage peasant farming are being dampened as rivers and crops continue to dry up,'' said Muteia.

Critically-affected areas included the districts of Guija, Massingir, Mabalane, Chicualacuala and Chigubo, all in the Gaza interior in an area usually referred to as the upper Limpopo.

A Food for Work programme covering 80 percent of the affected people was providing a lifeline.

Under the programme basic foodstuffs, such as grains, beans and vegetable oil, are provided by the U.N food agency WFP and other non-governmental organisations.

In return, the beneficiaries build access roads, drainage channels, schools, clinics and houses for teachers and health workers.

The agencies said they would start a supplementary feeding programme targeted at children and pregnant women in Tete. The programme will cover 141,000 children aged between six and 59 months and some 71,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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