HARARE, March 7 (Xinhua) -- At least 7 million Zimbabweans, or almost half of the country's population, face hunger this year due to drought and will require food aid, a senior government official said Thursday.
Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare permanent secretary Judith Kateera told a parliamentary committee that the government will strive to provide food relief to citizens as hunger takes its toll on the country, state news agency New Ziana reported.
A survey undertaken by the Food Nutrition Council in January this year revealed the number of people who will be food insecure, Kateera said.
"This year we are looking at about 7 million people, 4.5 million in rural areas and 3 million in urban areas," she said.
The figure is almost half of the country's population of 16 million people, and the highest ever in recent years of people requiring food aid in the country.
Kateera said the country now has 800,000 tonnes of maize in its strategic grain reserves, more than the mandatory 500,000 tonnes.
Farmer organizations are projecting this year's maize harvest to be around 900,000 tonnes, down from 1.7 million tons harvested in the 2017/2018 farming season.
The United Nations last week launched a 234 million U.S. dollar aid appeal for Zimbabwe, and estimated that about 5.3 million Zimbabweans will require food aid in 2019 because of the devastating effects of the drought.
"We are sincerely hoping that the gods will do us a favor by making sure we have a good harvest and we beef up our stock because annual demand is around 1.8 million tonnes," Kateera said.