Zimbabwe dam levels at record lows after drought

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HARARE, Zimbabwe, Oct 28 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's dam levels have fallen to 42 percent following a devastating drought that has left millions in need of food aid and local councils rationing water, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Friday.

An El Nino weather pattern, which ended in May, triggered drought conditions across the southern African region that hit the staple, maize, and other crops and dented economic growth.

See pictures of the crisis that's impacting millions:

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Zimbabwe drought crisis

A child drinks water from a cup in drought-hit Masvingo, Zimbabwe, June 1, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

A photo taken on February 7, 2016 shows the fast drying catchment area of the Umzingwani dam in Matabeleland, Southwestern Zimbabwe . Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on February 5, 2016 declared a 'state of disaster' in many rural areas hit by a severe drought, with more than a quarter of the population facing food shortages.

(ZINIYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty Images)

A donkey searches for water at a dry borehole in rural Masvingo, in this picture taken January 21, 2016. The United Nations World Food Programme said some 14 million people face hunger in southern Africa because of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

A youth fetches water from a dam near Mount Darwin, Zimbabwe, October 26, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Cattle stand over cracked earth as water levels drop in a dam near Mount Darwin, Zimbabwe, October 26, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Villagers collect their monthly food aid provided by United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Bhayu, Zimbabwe, September 14, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Villlagers collect water from a dam near Mount Darwin, Zimbabwe, October 26, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Villagers collect water from a dry river bed in drought hit Masvingo, Zimbabwe, June 2, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo/File Picture)

Villagers collect food aid provided by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) at a distribution point in Bhayu, Zimbabwe, September 14, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Women gather grain spilled by cargo trucks from Zambia along a highway in Magunje, Zimbabwe, February 20, 2016. Earlier in the month Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe declared a state of disaster in most rural parts of the country severely hit by a drought.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

People wait to collect their monthly food ration provided by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Mwenezi district, Masvingo, Zimbabwe January 25, 2016. The WFP has said that some 14 million people face hunger in southern Africa because of a drought that has been exacerbated by an El Nino weather pattern.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Branches protrude above water on the Kariba dam in Harare, Zimbabwe, February 19, 2016. Kariba, Zimbabwe's main hydro power dam could stop producing electricity in six months if water levels keep falling after the nation's worst drought in more than two decades, an official said. 

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

A motorist drives on top of the Kariba Dam wall in Kariba, Zimbabwe, February 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

A Zimbabwean man roasts maize for sale at the side of the road in the capital Harare, March 3, 2016. The number of Zimbabweans requiring food aid has risen to 4 million, up from 3 million initially, a state-owned newspaper said in March, as the southern African nation grapples with its worst drought in more than two decades.  

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

Villagers collect water from a dry river bed in drought hit Masvingo, Zimbabwe, June 2, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

A general view showing low water levels on the Kariba dam in Kariba, Zimbabwe, February 19, 2016.

(REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo)

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Mnangagwa said the last time Zimbabwe experienced such a severe drought was in 1992, adding that the biggest dam in the south of the country was only 9 percent full.

The worst affected are people in the rural areas, where some boreholes and small dams have dried up, Mnangagwa said at the launch of an emergency drought response programme in Harare.

"In Zimbabwe, the drought has resulted in record low dam levels, with the national average dam level being 42 percent at a time of the year when it is usually 50 percent," Mnangagwa said. "Ground water levels have also not been spared."

The two biggest cities, Harare and Bulawayo, last week started scheduled water cuts.

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