UN food agency puts Zimbabwe on high priority


Godfrey Marawanyika

THE Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet) has placed Zimbabwe on the high priority list. The country needs urgent food assistance to save 5,8 million people f

rom starvation, the network says.


In its latest report released on Wednesday, the United Nations forecasting arm classified Zimbabwe amongst priority nations such as Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.


The report said in Somalia there were about 1,8 million people in need of food, Eritrea, 2,2 million and Ethiopia 8,2 million.


“Staple food availability is declining as market prices continue to rise,” the report said.


On Zimbabwe it said: “High inflation and the Grain Marketing Board monopoly are exacerbating the situation. While cereals are still available in urban areas, continuing erosion of real incomes makes them unaffordable to many.”


Although Zimbabwe officially says that it no longer requires food assistance, the UN has constantly said that the country is in need of food aid.


“Zimbabwe has imposed restrictive trade barriers that make both formal and informal trade unattractive to most traders,” the report said.


The Grain Marketing Board was faced with logistical problems and was unable to supply the country with maize, Fewsnet said.


“As a result, the GMB has had to ration supplies, leading to widespread scarcities, a booming black market and high retail prices that are beyond the reach of some Zimbabweans,” it said.


Last month Fewsnet said maize prices on the parallel markets continued to rise, limiting the ability of deficit households to buy enough food to satisfy their needs. It warned that levels of malnutrition were expected to rise between January and March.


“In most urban centres staple cereals continue to be available. But a smaller proportion of urban households are able to purchase sufficient food due to the continued erosion of real incomes,” Fewsnet said.


“Food-insecure households in both urban and rural areas are responding through reducing their consumption. Over time, levels of malnutrition and related diseases are expected to rise, peaking in the January to March 2005 period.”


Fewsnet said its targeted feeding programmes currently allowed by government could not adequately address the food insecurity problem facing both urban and rural communities in Zimbabwe.


“The humanitarian community in Zimbabwe needs to find fresh ideas, palatable to both the government of Zimbabwe and the donor community, to expand the limited working space in which they are currently forced to operate,” the report said.