September 22, 2008

Zimbabwe: NGOs Resume Food Aid Distribution to “Starving” Villagers

Text of report by privately-owned Zimbabwean weekly Financial Gazette on 18 September

The distribution of emergency food supplies to starving peasants across the country after a four-month suspension of relief aid has resumed.

A convoy of Red Cross Red Crescent trucks left warehouses in Harare, Bulawayo, and Mutare yesterday carrying 383 metric tonnes of food aid for vulnerable communities countrywide as part of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)'s 26.8 million United States dollars food security operation.

According to a statement released from its Geneva headquarters, this initial deployment will provide almost 24,000 people in eight of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces with enough maize, beans and cooking oil to last for one month.

About 260,100 people will be supported each month said Peter Lundberg, the head of the IFRC's delegation in Harare.

Lundberg said this was a critical period for these communities.

"They have already faced months without enough food and, for many families, the situation has deteriorated drastically in recent weeks."

In June government ordered the suspension of operations by non- governmental organizations, accusing them of using food aid to campaign for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

The decree received worldwide condemnation as most of the rural people were experiencing severe food shortages following a failed agricultural season.

The IFRC attributed the chronic food situation in Zimbabwe to an "accumulation of a number of negative factors".

It said alternating droughts and rain, influenced by climate change, has resulted in a disastrously under-performing 2008 harvest, one that is widely seen as the worst in the country's history.

In addition, ongoing socio-economic decline had contributed to a severe lack of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, leaving even fertile fields lying fallow.

A June 18 United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and World Food Programme report suggests that Zimbabwe's 2008 winter harvest may only produce about 40 per cent of the country's needs.

The report projects that there will be more than two million food- insecure people in the country for the period between July and September 2008, rising to 3.8 million between October and December and peaking at 5.1 million people between January and March next year.

Originally published by Financial Gazette, Harare, in English 18 Sep 08.

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