Zimbabwe Humanitarian Situation Report 10 Jun 2002

Over Six Million People Will Require Food Assistance
The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment report highlighted the serious food crisis in Zimbabwe. An estimated 6.074 million people, out of a total national population of 13.018 million, are considered to have insufficient production, income and other entitlements to be able to meet their minimum food requirements throughout the 2002/2003 marketing season. In addition, the study noted that people who do have the resources to purchase their food requirements are increasingly unable to do so because staple grains are not widely available in local markets. As basic food prices continue to rise and coping mechanisms reduced, more and more people will be unable to ensure their own food security.

Nearly 2 Million MT of Cereal Imports Required

The FAO/WFP study team estimated total 2001/02 cereal production at 670,000MT, against domestic requirements of 2.7 million metric tonnes, leading to a shortfall of almost 1.9 million metric tonnes when opening stocks are considered.

Cereal Balance (‘000 MT), April 2002 to March 2003
Millet & Sorghum
Opening Stocks
2001/02 Production
Food Requirements
Other Requirements
Closing stocks
SOURCE: FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission Report

This gap will need to be filled through a combination of government, commercial and food aid imports. The mission recommended that in addition to the planned government imports of 312,000MT and donor pledges of 60,000MT, that commercial imports from the private sector should fill 57% of the remaining needs (852,000MT) and food aid 43% (645,000). Participation of the private sector in ensuring the country’s food security requirements will require removal of policy constraints. In response to the increasing humanitarian requirements in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in the region, WFP is in the process of developing a Regional Emergency Operation, which will come into effect on 1 July 2002.

Cereal Imports
Donor Pledges
Commercial Imports
Food Aid Imports

The FAO/WFP study also recommended an emergency provision of agricultural inputs to the drought affected farming families for the 2002/2003 main planting season. The FAO Emergency Operations plan to post a dedicated, full-time officer in Harare to help reassess requirements and develop appropriate response mechanisms.

All Districts Need Food Aid

Food aid requirements for the 2002/2003 marketing season are not confined to small isolated pockets, but are spread throughout the whole country, rendering geographic food aid targeting very difficult. All districts have some grain deficit and vulnerable people who will require food aid. While the required amount of food aid varies from one district to another, the nine districts in northern parts of the country that experienced a reasonable harvest will require less assistance than other areas. The greatest food aid need is in the traditionally food insecure districts of Matebeleland, Masvingo and Manicaland Provinces.

Current Food Aid Distributions Reach 540,000 People

As at 4 June, WFP had reached 94.6% (542,612) of the targeted 558,000 beneficiaries, providing a total of 11,500MT of food aid since distributions started in February 2002. WFP reported that contributions totalled 57,280MT out of an appeal for 117,00MT.

Government, through the GMB, reported that as of 2 June 2002, an additional 48,000MT of maize grain had been imported into the country. This brings the total imports to date by GMB to 213,000MT. The consignment includes Brazilian and Chinese yellow maize and Kenyan white maize, both of which are already being distributed through GMB depots country wide.

Government Policies Constrain Food Security

Faced with outstanding import requirements of 1.5 million MT and limited foreign currency to finance government-led commercial food imports, the Government of Zimbabwe needs to encourage greater private sector participation in grain importation and to maximize the erratic food aid receipts from donors. Current government policies pose formidable constraints on both counts.

Since the end of 2001, government has banned private importation of maize and wheat into Zimbabwe, and the marketing (purchase and sale) of these commodities within the country. Applications for private importation may be allowed by exemption from the GMB, following scrutiny by an inter-ministerial technical committee, which decides whether to grant a licence to import. Current indications from both the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Finance are that given the magnitude of food shortages, most applicants with established credentials as bona fide traders will be approved. Nonetheless, few traders have shown interest in applying for food import licences. Private traders have acquired permits to import maize for animal feed, but controlled food prices by government continue to dampen serious interest in importing food for human consumption.

Another issue of contention with regards to grain imports is that of genetically modified organisms (GMO). There are three main issues surrounding the GMO controversy.

1. There are different views on the potential impact of GMO grain on human health. It is considered "safe" in some international communities, including in the US, and "unproven" in others.

2. Concern over the implications on livestock health and whether this will affect export of Zimbabwean livestock. The EU currently has no restrictions on the import of livestock fed on GMO grain.

3. The threat of environmental contamination through crosspollination is a potential risk. This can be avoided by importing meal instead of grain, or milling grain immediately upon arrival, before distribution.

Zimbabwe is currently a signatory of the Cartagena Accord, which regulates the introduction of GMO products and ensures appropriate labeling of GMO derived commodities. Although this Accord is not yet in force due to lack of sufficient signatories, GoZ has maintained the spirit of the agreement. GMO products (maize meal) have been allowed into the country, but only by special waiver on a case-by-case basis. The waivers are granted after consultations by the Bio-Safety Board, the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement, and the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare. The administrative complexity of obtaining the waiver could impede actual food aid delivery by delaying logistical timeline necessities. The UN system and donors are negotiating with government to establish a more streamlined means of bringing GMO products into the country in order to ease the current food crisis.

Drought Affects Water and Sanitation Conditions

Preliminary findings from the Water and Sanitation Assessment report confirm the agricultural drought and indicate some reduction in the groundwater potential in the most affected areas. Southern parts of the country continue to be water stressed. Socio-cultural vulnerability stems from the poor harvest (a strong factor in the sustenance of rural livelihoods) as communities fail to sustain or develop water and sanitation facilities in their areas. Provision of water infrastructure was noted as a top priority to families affected by the agrarian land reform programme. In addition, the effects of Cyclone Eline are continuing to be felt by affected families, resulting in the persistence of cholera outbreaks in some areas eastern parts of Zimbabwe. The community resource base and the capacity of communities to ensure sanitation conditions have been significantly eroded by the drought. Access and supply of water has been affected partly by food shortages, as households spend more time looking for food. In addition, local communities, DDF and Rural District Councils do not have adequate resources to maintain existing water points.

Growing Concern over Reproductive Health Services

The UNFPA-led Reproductive Health Assessment report established that the most common reproductive health problems among female youths include early marriage, teenage pregnancy, abortion, rape, sexual abuse, and STIs/HIV/AIDS. Such problems are exacerbated by economic hardships and food shortages. Economic hardships have resulted in shortages of staff and reproductive health supplies and kits, particularly at rural health centers. Because of the additional time required to find food, there is a drop in visits to health facilities to obtain services such as contraception, antenatal and post natal care, and delivery. Some women are opting to deliver at home as there is not enough supplies to share between the mother at the health facility and the remaining family members. The assessment survey indicates that poverty and food shortages are also associated with early marriage and an increase in teenage pregnancy. The Nutrition and Health Assessment findings are expected to be released by 14 June 2002.

UN Prepares for a Further Response

In order to mobilize the required resources to respond to the growing humanitarian needs in Zimbabwe, including both food and nonfood requirements, the UN Agencies led by OCHA are currently in the process of preparing a Consolidated Appeal. Sectoral strategies and plans are being prepared by relevant technical teams, led by key UN Agencies, in collaboration with NGOs, government ministries and donors. The Consolidated Appeal document is expected to be complete by the end of June 2002.

Cholera Persists

During the past two weeks, 210 new suspected cholera cases have been reported, including 29 deaths. Manicaland, Masvingo, Mashonaland East Provinces and Harare city are the most affected: particularly Buhera District (40 cases), Chipinge (137), Chimanimani (4) Makoni (27), Harare (2). The outbreak of cholera is attributed to sanitation conditions, especially in those areas that were affected by Cyclone Eline.

Government Declares HIV/AIDS Emergency

Government has declared a six month emergency period to deal with HIV/AIDS. The declaration allows government and other authorized organizations to import generic drugs to treat people suffering from HIV/AIDS.

SPECIAL FOCUS: WFP to Establish Regional Management and Logistics Coordination Structure

WFP, through a Special Operation, has released plans to establish a Regional Management and Logistics Coordination Structure to help ensure the smooth movement of both commercial imports and food aid from coastal ports to inland countries. The structure will based in Johannesburg, with out-posted officers based at the SADC FANR Hub in Harare. It will seek to address the main operational issues, including coordination and information sharing, types of vessels and ports options, infrastructure repairs, pipeline management and additional trucking capacity. Major logistical policy issues include third party transport arrangement, import/customs procedures and road tolls.

Logistical experts agree that the capacity of the major transport corridors is more than adequate to handle the anticipated volume of food imports over the coming year. What is required however is to strengthen co-ordination and co-operation on food logistics issues among transport operators, aid agencies, the private sector and national governments in the region.

Click here to view the Zimbabwe food aid requirements map.

For additional information or comments, please contact the United Nations Relief and Recovery Unit, Harare - Tel: +263 4 792681-6, ext. 207 or E-mail: george.olesh@undp.org