Zimbabwe

UN official appeals to Security Council for funds to feed, treat Zimbabweans

A United Nations humanitarian official today appealed to the Security Council for increased funds to allow Zimbabwe to meet the challenges posed by a "triple threat," a combination of food insecurity, the high incidence of HIV/AIDS and declining social services.

Rashid Khalikov, New York Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), briefed the Security Council on the current and "alarming" situation of the most vulnerable people in Zimbabwe, he told reporters following the closed-door meeting.

OCHA estimates that 1.8 million metric tones of maize are needed to feed the people of Zimbabwe, yet this year's harvest will only provide 300,000 metric tons.

Although the country's authorities have announced that it will distribute an additional 400,000 metric tons of maize, "the current economic situation and the level of currency reserves gives us some cause for concern as to the ability of the Government to bring this food in and distribute it in a timely manner," Mr. Khalikov said.

This in a country where 18 per cent of the population, or 1.8 million people, have HIV/AIDS, but only 50,000 of them have access to antiretroviral therapy treatment when at least 350,000 must be treated to contain the disease, he pointed out. The Government has committed to increasing the number of people treated, yet "there is a lot of concern of the capacity of the Government and the health services are in quite poor shape," he said.

Mr. Khalikov said that he told the 15-member Council that of the $240 million needed to meet humanitarian needs in Zimbabwe, only 13 per cent of that has been contributed, most of which has been channelled to the food sector.

As a result, "education, water and sanitation and health have not been properly covered," he said. "Therefore, the United Nations is not in a position to provide assistance to the population of Zimbabwe in a comprehensive way."

He added that the Government's urban eviction campaign and land reform programmes have "exacerbated the situation on the ground and makes the position of those who are most vulnerable even more difficult."

The Government of Zimbabwe has requested that a joint assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) be undertaken to determine the exact food needs of the country and then to fashion a response to the problem.

Mr. Khalikov said that this assessment will most likely be carried out in April and May.