Man-made starvation is “slowly making its way into Zimbabwe”, despite the constitutional protection of the right to food and a sophisticated set of human-rights based laws and policies, a UN expert said on Thursday.

Hilal Elver, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, presented her findings after visiting the southern African country on Nov. 18-28.

“More than 60% of the population of a country once seen as the breadbasket of Africa is now considered food-insecure, with most households unable to obtain enough food to meet basic needs due to hyperinflation,” Elver said.

She urged the Zimbabwean government to take the necessary measures to reduce the country’s dependence on imported food, particularly maize.

“In rural areas, a staggering 5.5 million people are currently facing food insecurity, as poor rains and erratic weather patterns are impacting harvests and livelihoods,” the UN expert said.

In urban areas, an estimated 2.2 million people are food-insecure and lack access to minimum public services -- including health and safe water.

“These are shocking figures, and the crisis continues to worsen due to poverty and high unemployment, widespread corruption, severe price instabilities, lack of purchasing power, poor agricultural productivity, natural disasters, recurrent droughts, and unilateral economic sanctions,” said Elver.

She said women and children were suffering the most.

“The majority of the children I met were stunted and underweight,” Elver said.

“Child deaths from severe malnutrition have been rising in the past few months. 90% of Zimbabwean children aged six months to two years are not consuming the minimum acceptable diet,” she added.