QUESTION: Early food production estimates suggest that Zimbabwe is facing yet another poor harvest. If the forecasts are correct, what are the reasons for the low output, and what will be the humanitarian repercussions?
ANSWER: We are at an advanced stage in the preparation of the next Consolidated Appeal for Zimbabwe. After wide-ranging consultations, we have identified four priority areas, in the understanding that the government will make a formal appeal shortly.
First, we must provide food assistance to vulnerable households. The harvest is, indeed, well below the country's cereal requirements.
Second, the social sectors must be revitalised. Public health, for instance, requires a large amount of support, simply in order to provide basic services. The capacity of the health system has been in serious decline over the last three years.
Third, we must address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the scale of which is such that all Zimbabweans are affected. Saving lives and productive capacity is obviously a humanitarian imperative.
Finally, we are focussed on recovery. Though the obstacles are significant, opportunities do exist and the humanitarian community will be called upon to contribute. This will involve strategic and financial support toward the implementation of recovery policies at national level, as well as a range of programmes promoting the self-reliance of all families.
Q: Is the humanitarian situation facing former commercial farm workers still of concern? Have humanitarian agencies been able to gain access to this vulnerable group?
A: It is of great concern to us. There are still difficulties in accessing the former commercial farming areas, and so we still cannot be sure of the extent of vulnerability among either the former farm workers or the newly resettled small-scale farmers.
Q: Earlier this year there was talk that the government might approve an agricultural survey to assess the impact of land reform for both resettled farmers and former commercial farm workers. Has there been any progress?
A: The government of Zimbabwe has recently put together a Land Review Committee. UNDP and the rest of the UN-system are now waiting for this committee to complete its work. We will view these findings with much interest.
Q: Zimbabwe has been characterised as "in crisis" for several years. Do you believe that, politically, economically or socially, the situation in the country is any more critical now?
A: The present situation is, indeed, very difficult. In my opinion, there really is no more allowance for delays in reaching a consensus as to what is the way forward.
Q: Does the international community have a role to play in helping Zimbabwe overcome its problems? If so, what are the conditions required for that assistance to be effective?
A: As the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, I quote the recent statement of the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, who has reiterated his readiness to contribute to the search for a negotiated solution of the serious difficulties facing the country.
If you want to talk conditions, let's talk about genuine partnerships. In order for any assistance to be effective, two dialogues must be had:
First, there must be domestic dialogue. Regardless of political interest, the fundamental question is: How do Zimbabweans work together to come out of this crisis?
Second is the dialogue with external partners, and this is the fleshing out of a viable and internationally-supported recovery programme.
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