Zim hunger: US, UK pledge $43m for food relief

By Drum Digital
08 October 2015

Britain and the United States have reportedly launched a programme to rescue at least 650 000 Zimbabwean hunger victims, with the two countries pledging to provide up to $43m for food aid.

This came as the World Food Programme (WFP) said in August that around 1.5 million Zimbabweans were expected to go hungry this year after a dramatic fall in maize production.

Reports indicated that Zimbabwe needed to import at least 700 000 tons of maize from neighbouring countries to avert a food crisis, with analysts saying this would cost the country's cash-strapped treasury around $224m.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently expressed concern over the food imports, saying they were draining the country's already strained resources.

News Day reported on Wednesday that the food relief programme, co-ordinated by Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), would be implemented in the form of mobile cash transfers as well as direct food handouts targeting 650 000 people in 29 food-insecure districts.

Root cause

The report quoted the USAID mission director, Stephanie Funk, as saying there was a need to find a solution to the issue of hunger in Zimbabwe by addressing the "root cause".

"Since 2002, we have provided more than $1bn in humanitarian assistance to millions of vulnerable Zimbabweans. USAID is providing $27m to meet immediate food security needs of hundreds of thousands of rural Zimbabweans," Funk was quoted as saying.

Funk added: "However, while recognising that there is need for this type of assistance, humanitarian assistance alone is not enough. We need to address the root cause of poverty and hunger..."

DFID’s head in Harare Annabel Gerry warned of more severe food shortages in the coming year given the development of the El Nino phenomenon that causes drought across the region, the report said.

Land seizures

Since 2000, Zimbabwe has struggled to feed its people due to droughts and President Robert Mugabe's seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks, which badly affected commercial agriculture.

Mugabe said at the time the reforms were meant to correct colonial land ownership imbalances.

At least 4 000 white commercial farmers were evicted from their farms.

The land seizures were often violent, claiming the lives of several white farmers during clashes with veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation struggle.

Mugabe’s critics often blame the programme for low production on the farms and national food insecurity.

Source: News24

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