CABINET on Tuesday resolved to send a formal appeal for humanitarian assistance to the World Food Programme, the Zimbabwe Independent has heard.
>Although details of the appeal were not readily available by late yesterday, it is understood that government’s appeal is for between 600 000 and 800 000 tonnes. Last year government made an appeal for 705 000 tonnes of food.
This year’s harvest is slightly better than last year’s but the government’s capacity to import food has been compromised by forex shortages.
A United Nations Development Programme spokesperson in Harare said the government had informed the world body that the appeal logistics were finalised by the cabinet on Tuesday but have not yet been handed over.
“We are expecting the formal appeal anytime this week,” the spokesperson said.
The formal appeal had been delayed by disagreements over official crop forecasts, government sources said. In the absence of a formal appeal humanitarian agencies had difficulty securing pledges of funds from donors.
The Famine Early Warning System Network (Fewsnet) had predicted a harvest of 1,3 million tonnes, the Commercial Farmers Union had put their figures at between 600 000 and 700 000 tonnes, while government had forecast 900 000 million tonnes.
The latest crop and food supply assessment mission by the WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organisation estimated that 4,4 million people in rural areas and 1,1 million in urban areas would require food assistance in 2003/04.
Zimbabwe is once again the coun-try worst affected by food shortagesin southern Africa. Pubic Service Labour and Social Welfare permanent secretary Lancaster Museka told Irin News agency on Tuesday the government would probably be able to make a formal appeal on Wednesday.
“The delay was due to a disagreement over crop forecasts presented by the Central Statistical Office, but this had now been resolved,” Museka told Irin.
“The cabinet was sitting on Tuesday and one of the items on the agenda is the crop forecast … from which the figures for the appeal will come.”By Wednesday we expect to give them (WFP) the figure, once cabinet has approved it,” he said.
Diplomatic sources said the appeal would not get a response in time for the requisite humanitarian assistance.
“WFP and its implementing partners will pull out of all their operation areas at the end of August when the carry-over food gets finished,” one diplomat said.
“We expect to receive food in October because it would take at least three months from the time of the launch of the appeal to the delivery of the food into the country.”