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Government takes out begging bowl

Augustine Mukaro

GOVERNMENT has started approaching donor countries to lay the ground for the 2005 Consolidated Appeal Process set to be formally presented early next month.

ce=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>Information reaching the Zimbabwe Independent says government emissaries have approached key donor countries such as the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with proposals in various areas of need. Food is the top priority and accounts for over 60% of the appeal.

The development comes at a time when Social Welfare minister Paul Mangwana conceded that Zimbabwe will appeal to the UN and “friendly countries” for food assistance after the parliamentary poll which took place yesterday.

Mangwana said government would approach friendly countries and the UN for assistance following allegations that government was abusing food to gain political mileage.

“We will ask our friends if we think we cannot handle the situation on our own,” Mangwana said. “We are part of the international community and the UN and they have helped us in times we had food shortages. We will approach them at the appropriate moment, taking into consideration our capabilities and incapabilities.”

At the same time MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai is urging government to allow NGOs to resume drought relief supplies if mass starvation is to be averted.

Mangwana indicated that 400 000 households had insufficient food supplies since September last year. The figure translates to about 2,4 million people considering that an average family consists of six people.

Diplomatic sources said indications are that the appeal will be formally presented before the end of April.

“Government has stepped up their discussions with the UNDP and donors,” one diplomat said. “Ministries coordinated by the Public Service Labour and Social Welfare ministry have already submitted their proposals. The proposals show that government is seeking assistance in all facets of the economy ranging from food, health, social services and agricultural sectors.”

Since the inception of the land reform programme, Zimbabwe plunged into a food crisis that grew into a major humanitarian emergency in 2003, with people suffering the effects of a deteriorating economy, depleted social services and policy constraints.

The crisis forced Zimbabwe to make two humanitarian appeals within five years.

In July 2003 government launched an appeal for US$114 million.

Government then asked for the renewal of the same appeal last year.

Sources said this year’s appeal could be slightly higher than the previous appeals considering the continued depreciation of the Zimbabwe dollar.

They said just like the previous appeals, this year’s document was developed concentrating on three main areas: preventing loss of life through food, nutrition and health interventions; mitigating the impact of the crisis on vulnerable groups by supporting household livelihoods with basic services; and developing a productive dialogue among humanitarian stakeholders to strengthen coordination in order to protect the most vulnerable.

Sources said the UNDP has also received appeal proposals from the Agriculture ministry seeking to kick-start food production on the resettled farms.

Production has plummeted by over 70% over the past five years as a direct result of the chaotic land reform programme which reduced the once vibrant commercial farming sector into subsistence farming.

Government had until the end of November last year insisted that its farmers produced a bumper maize harvest of 2,4 millions tonnes and would not require aid.

A report by the parliamentary portfolio committee on Lands and Agriculture in October revealed that the Grain Marketing Board had received only 388 558 tonnes of grain from farmers.

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