The World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Wednesday that it plans to provide assistance to up to 3.3 million Zimbabweans facing severe food shortages over the next eight months.
WFP also called on donors to contribute urgently towards the 118 million U.S. dollars cost of its massively expanded aid operation.
Amir Abdulla, WFP's Regional Director for Southern Africa, said: "Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans are already starting to run out of food and several million more will be reliant on humanitarian assistance by the end of the year."
"WFP plans to feed more than 10 times the current number of beneficiaries over the next eight months to avert the threat of widespread hunger, but to do this we need more donations and we need them immediately," he added.
WFP has 138,000 metric tons of food already in stock or in the pipeline for Zimbabwe but still needs another 207,000 tons of cereals and other commodities valued at 118 million U.S. dollars to cover its increased relief activities from now until the next main harvest in April 2008.
Without additional funds, WFP food stocks will begin to run dry in September and will be completely exhausted by December, just as the crisis reaches its peak.
WFP currently assists 300,000 people per month in Zimbabwe. From September, WFP plans to channel assistance through its vulnerable group feeding program to some 1.3 million people -- a figure that will almost double to 2.5 million in October before rising to 3.3 million from November through to March next year, the peak hunger period in Zimbabwe.
But these figures are subject to donations arriving in time to enable WFP to procure food in the region without delay.