The Catholic aid agency CAFOD is warning that Zimbabwe is in crisis, with many thousands of families on the brink of starvation.
The agency spoke out after the UN announced Zimbabwe is facing a food crisis, with more than five million people – about a third of the population – in need of food aid. More than 3.5 million are in need of "urgent" assistance.
The World Food Programme launched a £270m appeal to help Zimbabwe, once known as Africa's bread basket but now suffering the effects of drought, cyclone and economic collapse.
Verity Johnson, CAFOD’s representative for Zimbabwe, said: “Zimbabwe is in the midst of a devastating food crisis. More than five million people in the country will face severe hunger this year.
“Years of economic turmoil and climate change, as well as the recent Cyclone Idai, are pushing families to the brink of starvation. Last year’s harvests failed, largely due to extreme weather, ranging from droughts that lasted for months on end, to flooding which wiped out whole villages.
“The cost of food has also risen sharply and there are severe bread shortages across the country. Where it can be found, a loaf of bread in Zimbabwe now costs up to nine times more than it did a year ago. Parents are struggling to feed their children and give anything they can get hold of straight to them. With the prolonged drought, dams have failed to fill, and wells and rivers are drying up, leaving communities with no option but to walk tens of kilometres to reach water.
“We are at crisis point. The Church in Zimbabwe has also recently called for the desperate cries of Zimbabwean families to be heard.
“CAFOD has been working in Zimbabwe for almost fifty years, and our local aid experts across the country are witnessing first-hand the misery that climate change is already bringing to families.
“Over the last couple of weeks, we have stepped up our efforts reaching out to the most remote parts of the country through our Church network. We are delivering grains and emergency food aid to help people on the brink of starvation, as well as helping them to access safe, clean water through new pipelines and wells.
“We are also supporting communities to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change, so that they are better prepared as the environment around them on which they rely for their food becomes increasingly volatile.”
David Beasley, head of the World Food Programme, said about 2.5 million people were on the brink of starvation.
He said: "We are talking about people who truly are marching towards starvation if we are not here to help them. We are facing a drought unlike any that we have seen in a long time."