News briefs 11/05/06

Relief agencies run out of food
HARARE - Hundreds of thousands of widows, orphans, school children and AIDS patients in Zimbabwe could starve with relief agencies saying they are running out of food but cannot appeal for more aid until the government allows them to do so.


The National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO) said donor groups had planned their food aid programmes to run until the 2005/06 harvests, but these have been declared a failure in most parts of the country.
NANGO executive director Jonah Mudehwe said NGOs could not unilaterally extend food relief programmes unless the Harare administration officially requested them to do so.
Zimbabwe Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche, who must give the official go-ahead to NGOs to mobilise more food for vulnerable groups in the country, was not available for comment on the matter.
Mudehwe said reports by NANGO members indicated that early signs of starvation were already noticeable among some communities from some areas of Zimbabwe.
“These reports indicate that there are areas where the food deficit is so high that people are already starving. In other areas, there have been moderate harvests and this won’t take them far. We are hoping for quick government reaction,” he said.
A senior official with Christina Care, one of the NGOs feeding vulnerable groups in Zimbabwe, said the close to 600 000 people the group fed would still need help. He however said his organisation would be unable to continue assisting the people once remaining food stocks were finished. “We will be forced to fold our arms once current stocks run out. We can’t source for more food without government consent,” he said. – ZimOnline


Employment 9% says govt!
HARARE – Widespread disbelief and shock has greeted this week’s release of the 2004 Labour Force Survey (LFS) by the Central Statistical Office (CSO), which puts unemployment at a mere 9% of Zimbabwe’s population.
Bureaucrats have rejected out of hand independent estimates that joblessness surpassed the 50 percent mark several years ago and is presently well above 70 percent.
The report says 87 percent of the employable age group of 15 years and above was economically active as at 2004, leaving only nine percent without a job during the period under review.
The total population for this survey was estimated at 10.8 million compared to the 11.6 million people counted in the 2002 population census, which suggests the CSO may have factored in the hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who leave the country every year in search of jobs in neighbouring countries or overseas.
“The mind boggles at such an official contradiction of reality,” said an independent observer. “But perhaps the most alarming thing of all is that information from the survey will be used to formulate future government policies on employment, human resources development strategies, macroeconomic monitoring, incomes support and social programmes,” he said. – ZimOnline/own correspondent


Garikayi houses rejected
MASVINGO – Scores of victims of the government’s controversial home demolition campaign last year are refusing to occupy replacement houses built by the state here, saying they are substandard and not suitable for human habitation. The government hurriedly launched the home-building exercise last year to try to ward off criticism by the United Nations, Western governments and local human rights groups for destroying shanty towns and informal businesses in a campaign that left at least 700 000 people homeless and indirectly affected another 2.4 million people.
“The houses are so badly built that we are afraid they may collapse on us,” said one of the intended beneficiaries of the houses, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation. The man said in addition to shoddy handiwork by the contractor, the houses also did not have safe drinking water or sanitary facilities with recipients being asked to dig up wells for drinking water and pit latrines.
Masvingo provincial governor Willard Chiwewe would not accept complaints that the houses were substandard, warning that the government might have to find other people who wanted the houses if intended beneficiaries were not happy with them.
The government had initially said it would build houses for everyone whose home was demolished but has since abandoned the idea for lack of resources and in some cases displaced people were given incomplete houses and asked to finish building them themselves. – ZimOnline

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