More than 2 million people are fed by Zimbabwe government

The Zimbabwean government plans to assist at least 2.2 million people it believes incapable of feeding themselves until the next harvest, due in April 2006, according to the country's director of Social Welfare, Sydney Mhishi.

The figure is far short of the minimum 4 million people estimated by United Nations agencies to be in urgent need of food aid.

President Robert Mugabe has so far refused to appeal for assistance but said foreign donations would be permitted, providing they carried no conditional demands for political or economic reform, and contained no genetically modified foodstuffs.

The state-controlled daily newspaper The Herald said Mhishi made the disclosure during testimony to an all-party committee of legislators on Monday.

The 2.2 million were "those with chronic illnesses, the elderly and orphans who ... information at hand showed cannot afford to buy their own food," he said.

Mhishi reportedly said, "The government did not make an appeal for food aid because the number of households that needed such assistance did not warrant an international request for food aid," reports the AP.

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