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Zimbabwe — no aid, no progress

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An appeal for $415 million in humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe in 2011 has been made by the government and humanitarian organisations.

The humanitarian situation has improved in the last two years, but there were still “significant needs”, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) said in the capital, Harare, where the 2011 Consolidated Appeals Process (Cap) was recently launched.

“One in every three children in Zimbabwe is chronically malnourished, and malnutrition contributes to nearly 12 000 child deaths every year. An estimated 1,7 million Zimbabweans will face severe food insecurity during the peak hunger season from January to March 2011,” Ocha said in a statement.

Urban farming has increasingly become a feature in cities and reflects the fragile nature of the country’s food security, which reached its zenith in March 2009 when nearly 7 million people, almost two-thirds of the population, were receiving food assistance.

“Our hope is that if we get enough rains this year and part of next year (2011), then, through this urban agriculture that we practice, we may fend for our families,” said Sarudzayi Shoko, a domestic worker who has planted maize, the staple food, on vacant land in Harare’s middle-class suburb of Belvedere.

“Unfortunately, we are almost at the end of the year and very little rains have fallen, and that is a cause for concern,” Shoko said.

The national food requirement is about 1,7 million tons, but only around 1,35 million tons was harvested in 2009/10.

The 1,8 million hectares planted to maize in 2009/10 represented a 20% increase from the previous year, but the greater amount of land under cultivation was not mirrored in the harvest, which only increased seven percent from the previous year.

In 2000, President Robert Mugabe launched the fast-track land reform programme, which redistributed more than 4 000 white commercial farms to landless blacks, and set in motion a decade-long economic malaise from which the country has struggled to recover.

“Whilst there has been an improvement in agricultural production over the last two seasons, the sector still faces many challenges and farmers will require input support,” Ocha noted.

“In addition, although the scale of cholera has significantly reduced, localised outbreaks continued to be experienced due to the poor state of the health, and water sanitation and hygiene sectors.

“A third of rural Zimbabweans still lack access to safe water,” Ocha said.

A cholera epidemic that began in August 2008 and lasted for a year before it was officially declared at an end in July 2009 caused the deaths of more than 4 000 people and infected nearly 100 000 others.

Ignatius Chombo, Minister of Local Government, Urban and Rural Development, said food production could also be affected by bureaucratic inefficiencies, after it was “discovered” that rural farmers in the south-western provinces of Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South had failed to collect farming inputs worth an estimated $30 million, set aside to benefit disadvantaged rural families.

Distribution of the inputs, which include seed and fertiliser, is the responsibility of the Grain Marketing Board, a parastatal organisation.

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