A REPORT by United Nations agencies says 2,3 million rural people will face food shortages this year. The report flatly contradicts claims by government of a bumper harvest.
Government representatives sitalongside the UN aid agencies and NGOs on the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee which compiled the forecast.
President Mugabe recently said donors were trying to “foist food” on Zimbabwe even when “we are not hungry”.
Two weeks ago UN secretary-general Kofi Annan’s special envoy for humanitarian needs in southern Africa, James Morris, cancelled a planned trip to Harare after government officials said Mugabe would be too busy to see him on the proposed day.
The report by the committee recommends that food aid be sought “for the most vulnerable people who are food insecure up until March 2005”.
“A total of 2,3 million people will not be able to meet their minimum cereal needs during the 2004-2005 season,” it said.
The report draws its conclusions from a survey done in April.President Robert Mugabe’s government has forecast a bumper harvest of 2,4-million tonnes of maize, enough to cover domestic needs.
Responding to claims of a bumper crop, Morris said it would be good if Zimbabwe regains its self-sufficiency although “that would be a miracle turnaround”.
“Moving from serious short-ages to surplus in a single year would be unprecedented… any-where in the world,” he said.According to the assessment committee’s survey, Zimbabwe’s two eastern provinces -Mashonaland East and the densely populated Manicaland province – will have the biggest grain deficit.
The UN would still be willing to continue to help, Morris said, but warned: “I guess one of our concerns is that, if per chance, their strategy didn’t work out and we were called upon to be helpful and respond, this is not something you can do on 24-hour notice.”
The UN has been involved in the distribution of emergency food aid in Zimbabwe for the past three years of critical shortages, blamed by aid agencies on drought and a controversial four-year-old land reform programme.