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WFP plans food relief for 3.8 mln Zimbabweans

HARARE, Sept 13 (Reuters) - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is planning a food relief programme targeting 3.8 million people in Zimbabwe from October as the effects of a poor harvest and the Ukraine war continue to show, an official has said.

The southern African country has been struggling to feed itself since 2000, when former leader Robert Mugabe championed the seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless Black people.

Zimbabwe's government has said it expects its staple maize harvest to fall by almost half this year, to 1.56 million tonnes from last season's multi-year record of 2.72 million tonnes, due to poor rainfall in the 2021-22 growing season.

The country requires 2.2 million tonnes of maize annually for human and livestock consumption.

WFP said it had budgeted $40 million for the food aid programme to cushion millions over the peak of the hunger season from October, when poor households run out of food stocks, to March, when harvesting starts.

"I do not think this is a famine as yet, but that does not mean that it is good. We are preparing for a response that will take off in October up to March. We are working with government on a joint plan for the food deficit mitigation programme and that is for 3.8 million people," WFP country representative Franscesca Erldelmann told Reuters.

She said the number of food insecure people had shot up from 2.9 million to 3.8 million, warning that more households could go hungry as grain stocks dwindle.

Rising food prices, coupled with higher fuel costs after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, have driven Zimbabwe's inflation from 61% in January to 285% in August, undermining President Emmerson Mnangagwa's efforts to revive the country's economy.

(Reporting by Nyasha Chingono; Editing by Nelson Banya and Ed Osmond)

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