Govt yet to release drought relief funds

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Treasury is yet to release $3 million set aside for drought mitigation programmes to alleviate food shortages this year, a senior government official said yesterday.

Lancaster Museka, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, told Parliament’s Thematic Committee on Millenium Development Goals, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) had refused to supply grain without cash payments.

“We are yet to receive the drought budget allocation for this year because since January up to now we still have not received the $3 million drought mitigation money from Treasury,” he said.

“Our minister (Paurina Mupariwa) is currently in Masvingo and she has been going around all provinces to access the impact of the current drought.

“But we are still going to continue on free food distribution to the aged and child-headed families,” he said.

Parts of Masvingo, Matabeleland and Mashonaland Central are reportedly the most affected by the drought.

Museka told the committee that while donors like the World Food Programme assisted drought-stricken areas with cooking oil and vegetables, they were unable to provide grain.

The government through the GMB has a grain reserve of around 500 000 tonnes earmarked to assist families in the regions which are most affected by drought.

“We have tried to negotiate with the GMB to say our beneficiaries are suffering so that they give us maize, but they have always raised the question of money,” Museka said.

“The thing is that government or Cabinet should make a decision to say GMB should distribute maize to the starving people and then the ministry can facilitate its distribution.”