Commission provides a further €6 million for victims of food shortages in Zimbabwe

Brussels, 24 June 2002 - The European Commission has allocated €6 million in two separate decisions for victims of food shortages in Zimbabwe. The funds will mainly be used to distribute food to the poorest families in the most seriously affected districts of the country, to provide targeted nutritional support for children and to assist farm workers who have been affected by the land resettlement programme. Commenting on the latest funding, Poul Nielson, the Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, expressed grave concern "over the magnitude of the food crisis facing Zimbabwe and other countries in Southern Africa." He continued: "Humanitarian assistance and direct food aid are now clearly needed on top of our well established longer-term action to improve food security and prevent widespread starvation. The Commission remains ready to take further support measures in fighting this crisis."

Referring specifically to Zimbabwe's huge cereal deficit of some 1.8 million tonnes, Mr Nielson pointed out, however, that there were limits to what could be achieved with targeted humanitarian and food aid. "The private sector has a leading role to play in bringing food on to the market. The government must remove the constraints which are preventing this from happening."

The new assistance package has two components. €4 million, managed by the Food Security unit of the Commission's EuropeAid Co-operation Office, is being provided as an additional contribution to the emergency programme being implemented by the World Food Programme (WFP). This assistance will fund the purchase of more than 8,000 tonnes of maize and comes in addition to the 10,170 tonnes of food (worth €6.5 million) already attributed in April 2002 (see IP/02/689 of 8 May 2002). The food will be distributed to highly vulnerable households in 19 districts of Zimbabwe. The distribution will be carried out by WFP in collaboration with local authorities and NGOs, while monitoring of the operation will be ensured jointly by the WFP and the European Commission. WFP is organising the procurement, transport and delivery of the foodstuffs which are scheduled to reach the affected population within the next few weeks.

A further €2 million is being provided by the Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). The focus here is on providing nourishment for hungry children through supplementary feeding for under-fives and a school meals programme. Farm workers adversely affected by the land resettlement programme and prevailing food insecurity will also receive emergency food aid. The decision includes a component to boost monitoring and surveillance services. ECHO's proposed partners for these humanitarian operations are the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and two NGOs (Care International and Save the Children).

Zimbabwe's food shortages are due to a combination of economic crisis, mismanagement and the drought which has affected Southern Africa more widely. Between 4 million and 6 million Zimbabweans (around half the population) now need urgent food aid compared to the figure of less than 600,000 estimated in November 2001 when WFP launched its current emergency programme.

Michael Curtis: 02/296.59.32
Giulio Bursi: 02/295.47.21