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UN cuts food aid to millions in Zimbabwe
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A serious funding crisis has forced the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to cut back on the life-saving aid it is providing to millions of Zimbabweans suffering the effects of a disastrous harvest, the agency warned Tuesday.

"WFP still requires 140 million U.S. dollars to fund its operations in Zimbabwe until the end of March 2009, with a shortfall of approximately 145,000 tons of food, including 110,000 metric tons of cereals and 35,000 metric tons of other food commodities," the agency said in an update detailing its first month of large-scale distributions in October.

"There is currently no food in the pipeline for distributions in January and February... when WFP is aiming to assist over 4 million people each month," the statement said.

In October, WFP distributed 29,000 tons of food to around 2 million vulnerable people across the southern African country.

In November, WFP aims to distribute around 46,000 tons to more than 3.3 million people under the Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) program and around 600,000 under the safety net programs.

However, the funding shortage means it will have to cut back on individual rations so as to provide something for all beneficiaries.

The November cereal ration has been cut from 12 kg to 10 kg per person per month and the pulses ration from 1.8 kg to 1 kg for all VGF beneficiaries and people receiving take-home rations under the safety net programs, according to the agency.

"These cuts will allow WFP to stretch its available resources as far as possible but they will leave greater numbers more malnourished and more susceptible to disease," it said.

"WFP needs additional donations urgently since it takes between six and eight weeks to transform a cash contribution into food on a beneficiary's table."

According to the latest UN figures, the number of people needing assistance in Zimbabwe will rise to 5.1 million, or 45 per cent of the population, at the expected peak of the crisis in early 2009.

(Xinhua News Agency November 12, 2008)

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