May 31, 2002

Two large donations for Zambia

A day after President Levy Mwanawasa declared the country's food insecurity a national disaster, two large donations were announced. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday, May 30, it would provide Zambia with US $317 million to support an ambitious government programme this year to reduce poverty, which afflicts around 80 percent of the country's 10 million people. The Fund's country representative, Mark Ellyne, said the aid package would include US $167 million in cash and US $150 million in debt relief under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

At the same day, the United States government made a donation of 8.500 tonnes of food worth US $2.3 million to Zambia. United States Ambassador to Zambia David Dunn on May 30 announced that World Food Programme (WFP) office in Lusaka would receive the donation and administer the distribution. WFP country director Richard Ragan said his office would co-operate with several local NGOs whose support had been pivotal to the success of food relief efforts in Zambia.

In a live address to the nation on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation radio and television on May 29, Zambian President Mwanawasa had said Zambia's current food production level could only cater for about six million of the 10,4 million population. Mwanawasa said four million Zambians were at a risk of starvation. Zambia was one of the most prosperous countries on the continent at independence from Britain 38 years ago, when it enjoyed a per capita Gross National Product (GNP) of US $750 per year. However, decades of economic mismanagement and externally induced shocks have reduced that to around US $231 - one of the lowest in the world. An exceptionally high prevalence of HIV-infection, which afflicts about 20 percent of the population, has, meanwhile, pushed life expectancy down from a peak of over 50 years to around 37 years. (THE POST, IRIN)


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