Boy chokes to death on wild fruit nut as Zim hunger worsens

BULAWAYO - A 15-year-old boy choked to death on the nut of a wild fruit at a village in Zimbabwe where an acute food crisis has forced thousands of families to survive on tree leaves, wild roots and fruits.

The boy, Sifiso Dube, died last week and was buried on Monday at his home in the Sivalo area of Midlands province, according to a relative of the boy and a local community leader.

He was buried on Monday. He died after he was choked by an umkhuna/hacha nut, said Siphilile Mabhena, who said she was related to Dube.

Local headman Collin Mantiya confirmed the accidental death of Dube and said there had been several other mishaps in the village when people fell sick after mistakenly eating poisonous wild fruit.

Villagers are eating dangerous wild fruits, tree leaves and roots because of food shortages. The 15-year-old boy died after he was choked by a nut of umkhuna while numerous villagers have reported sick after eating some unknown wild fruits, said Mantiya.

Umkhuna, a yellowish-brown fruit indigenous to Zimbabwe, has become a staple for many families as the country’s hunger crisis heads towards an anticipated peak period – January 2009 – when an estimated 5.1 million people or about 45 percent of the country’s 12 million population will have no food.

Once a regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe is in the grip of severe food shortages that President Robert Mugabe blames on poor weather and Western sanctions he says have hampered importation of fertilizers, seed, and other farming inputs.

A September 15 power-sharing agreement between Mugabe and opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara raised hope among Zimbabweans that a decade of food shortages and severe economic recession may be coming to an end.

But an increasingly acrimonious wrangle between Tsvangirai and Mugabe over who should control powerful ministries has stalled formation of a unity government to tackle hunger and economic hardships.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), about two weeks ago, called on international donors to make available US$140 million in emergency food supplies in order to prevent Zimbabwe’s food shortages from deteriorating into a disaster. – ZimOnline

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