Parliament moves motion to declare a national food disaster

After weeks of relative silence from Zimbabwe's politicians on the state of the crippling food shortages in the country, the House of Assembly on Wednesday finally moved a motion to declare the situation a national disaster.


There has been an alarming increase in the number of deaths in recent weeks, as Zimbabweans are beginning to succumb to hunger related diseases, such as kwashiorkor, marasmus and in some cases, pellagra. Newsreel has previously reported on the countless numbers of dead and dying children across the country, with only half of the seriously ill being admitted to hospital for care. But even in hospitals, the country’s youngest victims are still dying because of a critical lack of medical supplies and nothing to feed starving patients.


Aid agencies have predicted that up to 5 million Zimbabweans will face starvation by January. At the same time farmers unions have said that food aid will be vital for at least the next eighteen months, because of poor harvest projections for the upcoming farming season. But aid agencies are battling to try to get food to those who are most desperate and at risk after Robert Mugabe’s ban on foreign aid operations was only partially lifted recently.


The House of Assembly motion is a response to the growing number of deaths as well as intense lobbying by Zimbabwean NGOs, who have for more than a week, called for the situation to be declared a national disaster. Medical professionals and analysts too have voiced their agreement that the situation is one that needs urgent, critical intervention, and said such a declaration would hopefully prompt urgent aid.


Fambai Ngirande from the National Association of NGOs, which has been instrumental in pressuring parliament to make the declaration, told Newsreel on Thursday that action urgently needs to be taken. This is the worst crisis since the country’s independence, Ngirande explained. He argued that officials have taken far too long to respond to what he called a glaring, very apparent and overt crisis and lamented that the political situation has been given more prominence than the lives of the people.


Ngirande explained that declaring the situation a national disaster would send out a clear message that Zimbabwe needs help. But he added that the declaration would not only be vital for attracting crucial foreign assistance, but it will also be a critical move for crisis weary Zimbabweans.


The declaration will tell people that they have a government that cares about their welfare, Ngirande explained. The sense of priority and urgency will help restore people’s faith in a country that has fallen apart.


The vote on the motion is only expected to be taken when parliament reconvenes on November the 11th. In the interim, the desperate food crisis continues, affecting all sectors of the country’s industry. Supermarkets are bare, hospitals on average receive a day’s worth of critical food aid a week and even firefighters in the country’s capital Harare are so hungry that they went on strike this week. The firemen downed tools on Tuesday after the city council stopped issuing them with food while they were at work. – SW Radio Africa News

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