News and Information

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Agencies welcome EC donation for food aid
September 2, 2005

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Obinna Anyadike/IRIN

Zimbabwe and most of Southern Africa is still in need of more aid

JOHANNESBURG, 2 Sep 2005 (IRIN) - Relief agencies have welcomed a US $5.4 million donation from the European Commission (EC) to feed thousands of hungry people in Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland in the coming months, but warn that more aid is needed.

"We still require $194 million worth of resources - we have practically nothing for January through to March next year," said the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) Regional Director, Mike Sackett.

Kevin Farrell, WFP Country Director in Zimbabwe, which is battling with food shortages and an economic crisis said commitments from the EC and other donors had taken care of 50 percent of their needs through to December. "However, the most critical time of the year is the lean season, which starts in December and runs through to April, so the worst is yet to come and we urgently need pledges for this period as well."

Without new contributions, WFP will be forced to reduce distributions to many of Zimbabwe's most vulnerable people next year, at a time when in-country food supplies are usually at critically low levels and prices are beyond the affordability of the majority of the needy.

The EC offer follows UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's letter to 27 heads of state in early August, raising the alarm for urgent funding to "avert a catastrophe" in southern Africa, where more than 10 million people face food shortages.

Bilateral pledges from European Union member states, as well as the EC donation, cover over 50 percent of the total food commitments in Zimbabwe.

The food relief agency said the combined European contributions to WFP's regional appeal - $53 million - were enough to cover the procurement and distribution of some 111,000 mt of food for the region.

An estimated 2.9 million Zimbabweans would require food aid this year, according to the preliminary results of the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC).

However, the estimate presumed that the government would import 1.2 million mt of food, the price of maize would be subsidised, and wage increases would be in line with inflation: factors that could limit the number of people needing food aid.

Zimbabwe's economic crisis however, has however undermined those initial assumptions although the government insists it can fill the 1.2 milliom mt food gap.

WFP plans to distribute 300,000 mt of food in Zimbabwe through a short-term vulnerable group feeding programme for about three million people, besides already targeting about a million people, mostly children, through school feeding and HIV/AIDS support programmes.

"The success of any aid intervention will require a spirit of cooperation, openness and understanding between the international community and the government of Zimbabwe," said an EC statement.

"In this regard it is crucial that a Memorandum of Understanding between WFP and government, which incorporates international principles in regard to the distribution of humanitarian aid, is finalised and strictly complied with," it added.



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