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Govt under pressure to send SOS

Augustine Mukaro

GOVERNMENT has come under pressure to make a formal humanitarian assistance appeal to the donor community as provincial governors discover serious food deficits in their areas.

Highly placed sources said governors from Masvingo and Matabeleland provinces last month wrote to government asking it to authorise non-governmental organisations to resume feeding programmes to avert mass starvation.

Governors from Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo, which are prone to droughts, are understood to have told Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare minister Paul Mangwana that people in their provinces were starving and needed food urgently.

Under government’s new policy on food aid, donor agencies can only operate in specific areas upon receiving authorisation letters from the Social Welfare ministry. The ministry acts on recommendations from provincial governors and is responsible for sourcing food to be distributed in the needy areas.

Government officials said Mangwana has not yet responded to the governors’ requests despite mounting starvation in rural and urban areas.

“The governors cited massive deficits in their appeals,” one official said.

“The deficits come to light following findings of a vulnerability assessment team that went around the country to audit the current season’s production.”

The vulnerability assessment team, which comprised non-governmental organisations and government representatives, has indicated that the country did not harvest enough crops to feed its population. An estimated between 800 000 and 900 000 tonnes of maize are expected this year.

Government is claiming that there would be a bumper-harvest of around 2,4 million tonnes of maize this year.

Masvingo governor Josaya Hungwe denied forwarding any requests to the minister insisting that his province had enough food.

“I have not approached the minister requesting for food,” Hungwe said.

“We have enough food for the year.”

Hungwe’s denial is a u-turn from his earlier position that Masvingo needed food handouts following a poor harvest caused by receiving the wrong seed from Care International.

While the government claimed that the country would get a bumper harvest, Unted Nations assessment reports indicate that 2,3 million Zimbabweans will need food assistance this year.

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