Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe: Harare's failure to appeal for food aid worries World Food Programme

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HARARE - The World Food Programme (WFP) on Wednesday said it was "difficult and problematic" to raise relief for millions of hungry Zimbabweans because of Harare's failure to make a formal appeal for food aid.
President Robert Mugabe last June told WFP boss James Morris that Zimbabwe would welcome help from the group and other international food donors.

But Mugabe's acceptance of assistance was never followed up with a formal appeal for food aid while senior Harare officials have on several occasions said Zimbabwe would not make an appeal for aid.

"The government of Zimbabwe has not formally appealed for food aid which is in slight contradiction to other countries in the region....it's quite problematic," WFP spokesman in South Africa Mike Huggins told ZimOnline.

Huggins said out of 8.3 million people in need of food aid in the southern Africa region after crop failures, 4.3 million of them were in Zimbabwe which has faced shortages since 2001.

Mugabe's controversial expropriation of large tracts of land from white commercial farmers in often violent clashes instigated by mobs of war veterans is widely blamed for the plunge in agriculture production and fuelling a six-year economic recession.

Agriculture is the backbone of the country's economy and now contributes less than 16 percent to gross domestic product, 16 percent of employment which is sharply down from 30 percent in 2000.

Food security experts say Zimbabwe's 2004/05 staple maize crop is barely 600 000 tonnes, a far cry from the 2.4 million tonnes which the government had said the country would produce. The country consumes about 1.8 million tonnes of maize per year.

"Without an official appeal it is difficult to raise the resources needed by the people of Zimbabwe but the WFP is trying everything (possible) to mobilise as much food and money for vulnerable people," Huggins said.

He said the WFP needs US$266 million to feed the region with just over half of it required for Zimbabwe. Huggins added that so far donors had made available US$75 million for aid up to the next harvest in 2006.

The WFP will mostly focus on feeding the elderly, malnourished children, pregnant women and those who are unable to buy food for themselves, a number which aid groups say had increased with Zimbabwe's worsening economic crisis.

Harare authorities say they have made import orders of up to 1.8 million tonnes mostly from South Africa. The foreign currency squeezed nation has not said where it will get the money to pay for the maize while officials in Harare have privately indicated the government is banking on hard cash loan from South Africa to pay for food imports.

South Africa's Cabinet on Wednesday agreed to loan Zimbabwe money to buy food and fuel in critical short supply in the country.

Insiders have said Pretoria will only provide part of the US$1 billion originally requested by Harare, while economic analysts say whatever South Africa loans its neighbour would only be enough to avert immediate and total collapse of Zimbabwe's economy.

But much aid was needed to revive Zimbabwe's economy and end shortages of food, fuel, electricity, essential drugs and other basic commodities. - ZimOnline