Waiting for food

BULAWAYO - Impatience among the hungry and food relief operations put on the back foot by a nearly three-month ban are complicating an already desperate situation as Zimbabwe barrels towards its peak food crisis, less than two months away.


The UN estimates that in the first quarter of 2009 more than 5.1
million people, nearly half the population, will require food
assistance, although many humanitarian workers privately fear the
extent of malnutrition may be deeper than first thought, a worrying
situation that has surfaced in the past few days after a severe funding
shortfall resulted in a cut in food rations to below the minimum
monthly requirement.

Preparations by food relief agencies for the impending crisis were
compromised by President Robert Mugabe’s ban on their operations – for
alleged political partisanship – as he fought for his political life
during a presidential run-off that he eventually won, although the high
levels of violence and intimidation made the international community
dismiss the poll as unfree and unfair.

The ban disrupted the vetting process of potential beneficiaries and
the delay in distributions are causing rising levels of frustration
among those in need of emergency food assistance.

Effort Ncube, 54, whose extended family includes his four children,
eight grand-daughters and several other relatives, has survived on the
roots and wild fruits available in Matabeleland South Province for the
past four months.

"The donor agencies are taking long, and already, as it is, we are
facing death due to hunger, but some villages have benefited from food
donations. But we have been assured by the relief agencies that we will
be benefiting soon," he told IRIN.

Ncube’s family has borrowed relief food from people in the neighbouring
districts of Ntepe and Gwanda, who have received the reduced food
rations from World Vision, a Christian relief and development
non-governmental organisation (NGO).

"Once we get our rations then we will pay back what we got from the
neighbours, but the rations are taking too long to come," Ncube said.
World Vision is covering six of the seven districts in Matabeleland
South Province.

Making up for lost time


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