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Failed harvest deepens Zimbabwe food crisis

More than two million people in Zimbabwe, or close to one-fifth of the southern African country's population, are in need of food aid, the Red Cross said Thursday.

More than two million people in Zimbabwe, or close to one-fifth of the southern African country's population, are in need of food aid, the Red Cross said Thursday.

The International Red Cross renewed its call for support for the region in a statement, saying an estimated 2.17 million people are in need of food aid, a number it says will rise on the back of an expected failed 2010 harvest.

"In some parts of the country, the food situation is as bad as many of our volunteers and staff have ever seen it," said Emma Kundishora, secretary general of the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society, in a statement.

The agency said some areas have seen drought while others have been inundated with too much rain, damaging staple crops like corn. The country, once the breadbasket of Africa, has also been facing shortages of fertilizer and seed.

Farmers' organizations in the region forecast local corn harvests this year of some 435,000 tonnes, with annual consumption at about 1.6 million tonnes.

Aid effort faces $25M shortfall

In December 2009 the Red Cross appealed for 38.4 million Swiss francs ($36.8 million Cdn) in funds to continue an emergency food operation begun in 2008 to support more than 200,000 particularly vulnerable people in the region.

The group said Thursday its plans to continue the relief effort through this October but faces a shortfall of 26 million Swiss francs ($24.9 million Cdn).

Critics of longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe have blamed the food shortages on measures he introduced in 2000, when thousands of white-owned farms were handed over to landless blacks, seizures Mugabe argued were necessary to resettle blacks kicked off their land during British colonization.

Critics said the policy left much of the best farmland unused, as resettled farmers did not have the proper equipment, supplies and seed to keep production at previous levels.

Mugabe has blamed his country's plight on sanctions placed against his government, though Western countries say those sanctions target only Mugabe and his top aides.

With files from The Associated Press

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