7 August 2002

EU unveils Zimbabwe aid package

The EU unveiled a £23m emergency food aid package for Zimbabwe yesterday, despite its deep political differences with the president, Robert Mugabe. Despite the fact that the EU is deeply unhappy about Mr Mugabe's land reform programme and his government's heavy-handed treatment of the media and political opponents, Brussels said that aid could not wait. Poul Nielson, the EU's commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, said: "Direct food aid is urgently needed to improve security and prevent widespread starvation." Alluding to British allegations that Mr Mugabe's regime is doing its utmost to see that opposition supporters are denied food aid, he added: "The government also has a responsibility to help ensure that aid gets to those that need it." EU officials said that the aid was by far the largest amount given to Zimbabwe this year.

Mr Mugabe's government remains subject to an EU visa ban and asset freeze, the scope of which was widened last month. The European commission said yesterday: "Zimbabwe's food shortages are due to a combination of an unresolved political and economic crisis, resulting in sharp economic decline, compounded by the undermining of commercial agriculture by the fast track land reform and the drought which has affected southern Africa more widely." The EU money will be used to purchase 90,000 tonnes of maize, but that will not be enough to make good a total shortfall estimated at 1.87m tonnes of cereals. (ZWNews / Guardian, UK)

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