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In Zimbabwe, food shortages, a near total collapse of the domestic economy, and continued political repression are forcing large numbers of citizens to seek refuge and sustenance for their families in neighboring countries. South Africa, Zambia, and Botswana are focusing entirely on negotiations over the political stalemate in Zimbabwe, either directly or through the Southern African Development Community. In this context, any recognition of large numbers of Zimbabweans inside their borders is seen as counter-productive, as it draws attention to the humanitarian crisis inside Zimbabwe.
Refugees International is traveling to Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa for four weeks in October to conduct an assessment mission of the humanitarian situation of Zimbabweans fleeing political and economic turmoil in their home country. The Refugees International (RI) team will evaluate the overall effectiveness of the response to the needs of Zimbabweans and of efforts to provide assistance and protection to groups that are particularly vulnerable.
It is now estimated that over three million Zimbabweans have left the country, with thousands more leaving on a daily basis.
Larry Thompson is a Senior Advocate
and Emily LoDolce is an Intern at Refugees International.
"The tragedy is that we are replaying the colonization game if we don't allow the San their right to be different."
Alice Mogwe, Director
Botswana Centre for Human Rights (Ditshwanelo)
Quoted in IRIN report, March 5, 2004
"The sad truth is that as things stand
the humanitarian system faces the prospect of being completely overwhelmed."
James T. Morris
Executive Director, World Food Programme
The international humanitarian aid system is facing unprecedented stress. Poor weather and the legacy of conflict are threatening tens of millions of people, primarily in Africa and Central Asia. The situation is so grave that Andrew Natsios, Administrator of the U.S.
Thirteen million people in six countries -- Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe -- are facing the most severe crisis since drought-induced hunger struck the region in 1992. Food insecurity in southern Africa is a result of policy and governance failures, compounded by drought, flooding, livestock diseases, civil disorder, poor farming methods, and the increasing rate of HIV/AIDS. As a result of these and other factors, farmers have not been able to produce enough maize, their staple food.
While the world focuses on the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, a number of other emergencies have been brewing around the globe. Perhaps the largest of these is the growing complex food emergency in southern Africa. Due to harsh climatic conditions and corrupt government policies, as many as 13 million people may face starvation within the six countries that compose the southern African region.
Refugee & Relief Alert: Newsletter of Refugees International
Refugees International previously reported that the July 5th hostage incident in Mwange camp, Zambia revealed that international and local authorities were under-equipped to deal effectively with growing security problems.