Frustration with Mugabe hits food aid


Augustine Mukaro

DONORS have pledged less than a quarter of the food assistance Zimbabwe appealed for, throwing into doubt government’s capacity to import sufficient foo

d and avert starvation in the country, the Zimbabwe Independent heard this week.


Diplomatic sources said so far the US, the European Union and Australia were the only donors to respond to the appeal issued by the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP) in July. They have contributed US$37 million, US$28,5 million and US$7,5 million respectively.


The WFP has appealed for US$308 million to feed 6,5 million people facing starvation in southern African through to June next year. Of that figure, 4,5 million are Zimbabweans.


In July, Zimbabwe appealed for US$142 million to finance the importation of an estimated 711 835 tonnes of maize to make up for the deficit.


Diplomatic sources said although donors’ resources were stretched this year due to the situation in Iraq, Liberia and other West African countries, disgust with President Robert Mugabe’s government was also hurting the appeal.


“Donor fatigue over Mugabe’s damaging economic policies is hurting the response to the appeal,” one source said.


The WFP last week said its funding for emergency food aid was about to run out, threatening more than six million people in southern Africa with starvation.


The WFP said it needs US$235 million to assure continued food aid delivery to six southern African nations, but contributions are falling far short of the amount needed. In the June 2002-June 2003 period, the WFP raised US$443 million in funding.


Zimbabwe’s economy has been in freefall for the past four years because of government’s chaotic land reform. Bad weather has only compounded a shortfall in this year’s grain crop.


WFP regional director Mike Sackett said the agency expects to put two-thirds of its aid resources into Zimbabwe in the coming months.