|19 July 2001
ZIMBABWE: Donors may helpavert food crisis
As the Zimbabwe government
slowly begins to face the reality that in six months time the country could run
out of food, UNDP told IRIN that donors might support a UN-administered food
aid initiative. "A food aid project in which UNDP is the sole distributor in
Zimbabwe could be the sort of solution that international donors would
consider," Mkuleko Hikwa of UNDP in Harare said.
A recent WFP/FAO report
on Zimbabwe estimated that the country would need to import 579,000 mts of
grain to avoid a major food crisis in coming months. The report highlighted the
fact that due to the substantial decline in gold production and the tobacco
harvest, and the lack of foreign currency earnings, the government's ability to
import maize is extremely limited.
Experts said that shortages would
begin to be felt in the first half of 2002. A government admission two weeks
ago that it may have to ask for food aid was rapidly followed by an
announcement that an inter-ministerial food security task force would be
established to address the looming crisis.
But UNDP said that no
special request for food aid had been received from President Robert Mugabe's
government or from any other organisation. "We're still talking to the
government and we're facilitating negotiations between them and donor countries
and organisations," Hikwa told IRIN.
The opposition Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) last week called for food aid to be adminstered by NGOs
and not by the government, who could use it politically in the run-up to next
year's presidential elections. "We know ZANU-PF has been using food relief for
political purposes," said MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai at a press conference.
"If you want food relief you buy a ZANU-PF card."
But some analysts
told IRIN that keeping the government out of administering and distributing
food aid nationwide would be impossible. "There's no reason to suppose the
government will not play the food card in next year's election, but whether
that would be decisive remains to be seen," one economist said.
WFP/FAO report suggests that bilateral food aid may be the answer to Zimbabwe's
woes - to help ensure an adequate grain supply at affordable prices in deficit
areas, both rural and urban. (IRIN)