1 July 2005

Zambia: People Will Perish If WFP Cuts Food Rations

Lusaka — People will perish if the World Food Programme (WFP) cuts food rations this year, Siavonga UPND member of parliament Douglas Syakalima has said.

Commenting on the recent move by WFP to cut rations due to lack of donations from the international community, Syakalima said people in valleys would die of hunger.

Syakalima said in Siavonga people were going for days without food while others were thriving on wild fruits.

"The decision by WFP to cut rations means that people in valleys such as Siavonga, Sinazongwe, part of Mapatizya and Gwembe will die because this year's hunger was more devastating. Even the few who thrive on livestock to offset hunger will not because wells, which provide water for the animals, have dried up. People in Siavonga are eating roots which they have to boil for 16 hours," Syakalima said.

"Government is to blame for the current situation. There is no way it can re-assure people that no one will starve this year when people were already starving."

Syakalima said it was shameful for Zambia in the current era to talk of relief food when the country had about 90 billion cubic litres of underground water.

He said government had to provide the shortfall as it had a responsibility to provide for people.

Syakalima further said government had failed lamentably and that their agriculture policy was a disaster.

"A good agriculture policy should be sustainable even when there is no bumper harvest. It either government fails to plan or plans to fail. There is no way you can enjoy food security for two years then have nothing in times of a drought. Zambians are being treated better than slaves and government is worse off than the slave traders," he said.

Syakalima said the only solution to Zambia's current hunger problem was irrigation for all farmers.

He said while organisations like WFP always come handy in times of need, government had a responsibility to help people.

"All farmers need simple irrigation schemes to enable them grow food for consumption. Over the last 25 years, Zambia's rainfall pattern leads to drought every four or five years and by now if the new deal government was serious with planning, the trend could have been addressed. When they started exporting maize earlier this year I advised them in parliament but they only stopped the exercise in March," he said.

On Tuesday, WFP announced that the organisation would next month cut food rations due to shortages of contributions.

WFP country representative David Stevenson stated that the organisations only needed US $25 million to feed 820, 000 people but that they only had contributions to feed half the number.

Government initially asked WFP to target its assistance to one million people in light of the recent crop failure.

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