ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe has declared a state of emergency as drought hits more than a quarter of its struggling population.
President Robert Mugabe announced the unusual measure as his government was forced to admit it urgently needs foreign food aid.
More than 2.4m people in rural areas have been affected due to exceptionally low rainfall over the last year, leading to the deaths of thousands of cattle.
“With rains failing almost completely this year, the situation is getting desperate,” said Jan Vossen, Zimbabwe director for the charity Oxfam.
“In certain parts of the country, we even see that people, farmers, are using the thatch of their roofs to feed their cattle.”
Call for help: Robert Mugabe has declared a state of emergency
Tobacco and cotton farmers in Zimbabwe are bracing themselves for disaster.
Zimbabwe is currently importing maize from neighbouring Zambia, but supplies will not last long.
The United Nations World Food Programme has said some 14 million people face hunger in southern Africa because of a drought that has been exacerbated by the El Nino weather phenomenon .
South Africa, Namibia and Botswana have been badly hit, as has Ethiopia, further north.