SW Radio Africa (London)

26 September 2008

Zimbabwe: Country Set to Run Out of Food by November

A US aid organisation has warned that Zimbabwe faces completely running out of food as early as the first week of November, because the government has not ensured that adequate quantities of basic cereals have been imported to make up for the poor harvest.

The US Agency for International Development's (USAID) Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET) said in a statement on Thursday that Zimbabwe could face a 'critical shortage or exhaustion of cereals' as early as November 'given the current pace of imports'. FEWSNET explained that the current import rate of 8,786 tons of food per week would need to be tripled between now and March 2009 'to avoid massive shortages'.

The government planned to import 600 000 tons of maize from South Africa this year but only 175 000 tons had been bought by the end of August. "To meet the country's estimated consumption needs for the remainder of the marketing year, excluding carryover, an estimated additional 788 719 tons of cereals are needed," FEWSNET said.

Zimbabweans have already been facing hunger and malnutrition after Robert Mugabe's government imposed a ban on humanitarian food aid during the run up to the election run off in June. The ban left millions of the most desperate facing starvation, and although government said they had lifted the ban at the end of August, there are still many blocking mechanisms in place to stop the distribution of food. At the same time, the shattered economy and a severe currency shortage has seen even the country's comparatively wealthier groups struggling to afford the most basic food stuffs.

Macdonald Lewanika from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, told Newsreel on Friday there are 'grave concerns' that food remains inaccessible, despite the deal signed by Zimbabwe's political rivals. He said it is unacceptable that promises made during the signing of the deal have not been implemented, and called for immediate action on the ground. Lewanika said: "The impasse over sharing of cabinet posts needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency in the interest of ending the suffering of Zimbabweans."

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