A regional drought worsened by the El Nino weather phenomenon has affected South Africa and Zambia as well as Zimbabwe, leaving tens of thousands of cattle dead, dams depleted and crops written off.

Formerly known as the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe has suffered perennial shortages in recent years and has resorted to importing grain from neighbouring countries to meet its needs.

Overall, the food insecure population has since risen to 2.44 million - 26 percent of the population.

Mugabe has blamed low farm yields on erratic rains due to climate change, as well as sanctions imposed by Western countries over the government's tainted human rights record.

Critics say the food shortages have been partially caused by the president's land reforms enacted since 2000 when the government oversaw the often violent eviction of white farmers.

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