Zanzibar villagers appeal for aid

Villagers on the Zanzibar archipelago appealed for food aid Thursday, hit by a drought that has hurt farmers across East Africa.

The drought has also led to hunger in mainland Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti.

"We are facing serious shortage of food in our village, we appeal to the government to help us. We can't afford to buy expensive food," said Mwatima Amir. "We got food from our own harvest, but this time our farms were affected by drought and a delay of rains."

The poor harvest and subsequent food shortage has driven up prices for rice, Zanzibar's staple food. A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of rice now costs a US$1 (84 euro cents), nearly four times the normal price.

The food shortage was worse in the central and southern regions of Zanzibar's main island of Unguja, where more than 50 cows have died due to lack of food and water.

Ali Haji, chairman of a special government committee to assess the crisis, said he understood the villagers' needs and would report back to the archipelago's semiautonomous government.

Seasonal rains were expected to begin this month, but experts predict they will be below average, following the failure of the last rainy season.

Abdulla Mwinyi, a regional commissioner in central Unguja, toured farms Wednesday.

"The government is keen to resolve this or reduce the burden on you," Mwinyi said, reports the AP.

I.L.

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