ZIMBABWE: WFP launches appeal for emergency funding

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) made an urgent US$118 million appeal on Wednesday to provide immediate assistance to 3.3 million Zimbabweans facing severe food shortages.

"Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans are already starting to run out of food, and several million more will be reliant on humanitarian assistance by the end of the year," Amir Abdulla, WFP's Regional Director for Southern Africa, said in a statement.

"WFP plans to feed more than 10 times the current number of beneficiaries over the next eight months to avert the threat of widespread hunger, but to do this we need more donations - and we need them immediately."

The agency has already secured 138,000 metric tonnes (mt) of food for Zimbabwe, but requires another 207,000mt of cereals and other commodities, costing about $118 million, to cover its increased relief activities from now until the next harvest in April 2008.

Although the WFP has received $70 million for its operations in Zimbabwe so far this year, mostly from the US and European Union, food stocks were expected to begin running low in September if the additional funding was not received, and "will be completely exhausted by December, just as the crisis reaches its peak."

The dire food shortages in Zimbabwe, once known as the breadbasket of southern Africa, are blamed on a combination of drought, lack of inputs and expertise, and an economic meltdown that has seen inflation soar to over 4,000 percent - the highest in the world.

WFP has been providing food assistance to 300,000 people every month, but this number was expected to rise to 1.3 million people from September, 2.5 million people in October, and 3.3 million people from November to March 2008.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and WFP issued a joint report on Zimbabwe's food security in June, in which they predicted that "people at risk will peak at 4.1 million in the first three months of 2008 - more than a third of Zimbabwe's estimated population of 11.8 million."

The WFP has committed itself to feeding 3.3 million people, while the Consortium for Southern Africa Food Security Emergency (C-SAFE), a grouping of US-sponsored non-governmental organisations, is planning to assist a further 800,000 Zimbabweans facing food insecurity.

"Without assistance, vulnerable families will be forced to adopt risky survival measures, including eating potentially poisonous wild foods, selling their remaining household assets, exchanging sex for food, and crossing illegally into South Africa," WFP commented.

"Along with our partners and donors, WFP has helped to save the lives of millions of hungry Zimbabweans over the past five years, as well as stopping them from having to resort to desperate measures, such as prostitution or migration," said the WFP's Abdulla.

Government decides against import controls

"Operation Reduce Prices", which compelled businesses to slash prices by fifty percent in a bid combat hyperinflation - and imprisoned businesspeople who did not comply - has resulted in basic commodities fast disappearing from shop shelves.

President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF government has reportedly repealed legislation - intended to come into effect on Wednesday 1 August - that would have made it illegal for Zimbabweans to import groceries worth more than $250 without the approval of Industry and International Trade Minister.

According to the government, the law was designed to prevent profiteering by traders who import cheap commodities, mainly from South Africa and Botswana, for resale on the parallel market.

Although there are estimates that more than a quarter of the country's population has left Zimbabwe since 2000 to find work in neighbouring countries, or further afield in the United Kingdom and even Australia, the introduction of price controls resulted in widespread shortages, and has seen people sourcing their foodstuffs from across Zimbabwe's borders.

Source: IRIN
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