HARARE, Zimbabwe -- The United Nations deputy humanitarian chief says food shortages are "a chronic problem" in southern Africa and more than 5.5 million people in eight countries need aid this year, a 40 percent increase compared to 2011.
Catherine Bragg, winding up a five-day southern Africa trip Saturday, said worsening food shortages are the result of drought or floods and rising world food prices.
In Zimbabwe, 1.6 million people are affected by food shortages and many rural families have begun selling village livestock, often kept as a symbol of status and wellbeing, to cope with the "dire situation," Bragg said.
A decade of seizures of commercial farms has disrupted food production in Zimbabwe, a former regional breadbasket.
Food shortages are also particularly acute in Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland, Bragg said.