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US realigns humanitarian support to Zim

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Washington is realigning its support to the humanitarian sector in Zimbabwe to build stronger institutions and systems which allow for long- term food security, according to David Abell, a Chargé’ d’ Affaires at the US Embassy in Zimbabwe.

“We are very optimistic about this shift to support long-term recovery and we are happy to be partnering with the Government of Zimbabwe to help vulnerable families in Zimbabwe to get back on their feet,” said Abell during the launch of the $44 million Promoting Recovery in Zimbabwe (PRIZE) Programme in Harare on Wednesday last week.

PRIZE is funded by the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAid) Food for Peace programme.

Under the programme, USAid’s partners will provide approximately 24,400 tonnes of food to vulnerable households in Zimbabwe over the next two years.

The programme will also assist an estimated 90 000 vulnerable homes in eight districts through community-based programmes to improve long-term food security.

The eight districts are Mudzi, Rushinga, Bulilima, Mangwe, Gwanda and Mberengwa.

They were selected due to their high degree of food insecurity.

The project will support the installation/maintenance of small and large-scale irrigation systems; rehabilitation of livestock assets such as cattle dip tanks;

conservation agriculture; extension services to improve livestock husbandry and training for village savings and lending groups on managing income generation activities.

Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Tracy Mutinhiri commended the PRIZE programme, saying it complemented government efforts to ensure food security.

She further urged the partners to put more emphasis on community works programmes, such as the rehabilitation of small-scale irrigation schemes.

“I see this as a permanent solution to food aid that will leave space for other national developmental programmes.

Government instruments of development, such as our medium-term plan, recognise the need to now move from a relief to a recovery programme since the nation is now on a recovery path,” said the deputy minister who is also member of House of Assembly representing Mashonaland East constituency.

The United States government is the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe.

Since 2002, the United States has contributed more than $1 billion to humanitarian operations in Zimbabwe.

This support reached a peak of 7 million people in 2009.

“The trend is now reversing,” said Abell.

“We must look beyond feeding people today and tomorrow, and build stronger institutions and systems which will allow for long-term food security.”

The launch of the PRIZE programme, which was witnessed by senior government officials and representatives of local and humanitarian NGOs, succeeds an earlier programme implemented by C-SAFE partners that ended in August 2008, after eight years of humanitarian response.

Speaking at the same occasion, Karen Freeman, USAid mission director said her organisation is committed to “a more comprehensive approach to humanitarian response, meeting the urgent needs of vulnerable populations, while addressing some of the underlying causes of food insecurity.”

“USAid’s effort to improve livelihoods and build capacity is part of an overall effort to transition to long- term economic development, instead of only giving strict emergency assistance.

This effort is reflected in all our programmes,” said the USAid director.

PRIZE consortium local partners also include ACDI/VOCA and CARE.

They will work closely with the Community Technology Development Trust, the Organisation of Rural Associations for Progress, and the Southern Alliance for Indigenous Resources.

According to the May 2010 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee report, an estimated 1,3 million Zimbabweans would be food-insecure at the peak of the 2010/11 lean season early next year.

About 904 463 rural people are estimated to require food aid between this month and the end of the year.

The highest prevalence of food insecurity is projected to be in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Masvingo provinces, as well as the northern parts of the country which experienced dry spells in the second half of the 2009/10 agricultural season.

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