* Nearly 1.7 million Zimbabweans need food aid
* Humanitarian challenges remain, UN says
HARARE Jan 15 Zimbabwe will require at least
$131 million in aid this year, the bulk for food assistance
after a failed farming season left nearly 1.7 million facing
hunger, United Nations agencies said on Tuesday.
The southern African country, once a regional breadbasket,
has struggled to feed itself since 2000 when President Robert
Mugabe began a drive to seize white-owned farms to resettle
it wrote off a third of its 2012 maize crop after a
prolonged dry spell.
The call for assistance for Zimbabwe, whose economy was
ravaged by hyperinflation between 2003 and 2008, was part of an
$8.5 billion global appeal launched in December by the UN for
aid agencies to help 51 million people cope with humanitarian
emergencies in 2013.
The UN agencies said while the humanitarian situation in
Zimbabwe had improved after the formation of a unity government
by Mugabe and his rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in
2009, problems remained.
"Humanitarian challenges remain, that include food
insecurity mainly caused by drought, and sporadic outbreaks of
waterborne diseases," the UN office for the Co-ordination of
Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.
The UN said the southern part of Zimbabwe will continue to
experience drought in 2013, raising the prospect of another poor
(Reporting by Nelson Banya; Editing by John Stonestreet)