The World Food Programme, determined to prevent food aid in Zimbabwe from being used to influence voters in this month's national elections, is speeding up the delivery of its food supplies to avoid overlap with the run-up to polling on March 29.
The WFP, a United Nations agency, said in a statement issued on Thursday that it aimed to provide all 2.6 million beneficiaries with their food aid by the end of this week.
It noted that there were two "entirely separate food pipelines" in Zimbabwe: that in which the government supplied subsidised food for sale through the country's Grain Marketing Board; and the free food supplies which the WFP and its partners handed out to "the most vulnerable people based solely on need."
This second progamme, the WFP said, was operated under "a rigorous set of controls and procedures to ensure that there is no political interference."
It added: "WFP does not tolerate any political interference in the distribution of its food assistance, which is provided strictly according to need and without regard to political affiliation..."
"Many allegations about political interference in the distribution of food aid relate to the fact that WFP does not have the resources to feed all those in need of assistance, focusing instead on the most vulnerable people. Anyone who feels excluded can raise their concerns with the local complaints committee..."
The WFP said that in February it and its partner NGOs had distributed about 39,000 metric tons of food – including maize, beans, and cooking oil – to 2.4 million Zimbabweans in the rural areas worst affected by drought and last year's poor harvest.