WFP needs 20 million US dollars to feed starving Zambians

LUSAKA, Jul 25, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) - The World Food Program (WFP) said it needs about 20 million US dollars from the donor community to cater for food rations in Zambia for the rest of the year, the Zambian News Agency (ZANA) reported Monday.
Jo Wood, WFP information officer, told ZANA that the UN food agency is currently catering for about 550,000 people in several provinces of the country, adding that the remaining food can only reach up to mid-August.

WFP Country Director, David Stevenson, has also warned earlier that the organization might be forced to reduce on the rations and the number of beneficiaries due to a dire shortage of contributions.

Stevenson said without immediate new donations, rations to thousands of people would be slashed, affecting lives of women, malnourished children, the elderly and people with HIV/AIDS.

According to a new assessment, more than 1.2 million Zambians will need food assistance over the coming months due to the prolonged drought during the farming season this year and the country will need about 118,000 tons of cereal to assist those in need until the next harvest.

The food shortage in the country has seen several tragedies after those in hunger had to turn to cassava, a kind of tropical plant of which the root is edible only after leaching and drying to remove poisonous cyanide.

Four people in Luapula Province died last Friday while 28 others were admitted at a local hospital after eating cassava mealie meal, the ZANA reported Monday.

Just two weeks ago, a family in the country's Southern Province lost two children while 11 others were hospitalized due to the same reason.