Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Zimbabwe's communal farmers blame the current ban on NGO activities as they encounter the worst food shortages in history.
Alleging political bias, the government suspended all NGO activities, but the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) claims the ban was instituted to try to hide the political violence unleashed against its supporters after the March 29th general elections, in which President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF lost control of parliament for the first time since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980. Neither Mugabe nor MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai was able to win 50% plus one vote in the first round of voting to elect Zimbabwe's president, necessitating a second round of voting on June 27th, from which Tsvangirai withdrew after more than 80 MDC supporters were murdered and tens of thousands of people displaced by violence, allegedly by ZANU-PF militia.
Zimbabwe's poor harvest is being blamed on a combination of heavy rains at the beginning of the planting season, followed by a prolonged dry spell, as well as the lack of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers and seed, leaving farmers without food to feed themselves or any surplus to produce an income.
British cabinet minister Douglas Alexander, the Secretary of State for International Development, which promotes poverty alleviation and development in poor countries, has promised US$18 million to the World Food Programme (WFP)to provide for the millions of people expected to require food assistance. Alexander also called on Zimbabwe to lift the ban on NGOs, so that aid could reach those in need and facing starvation. The bulk of the funding will be used to provide food, but a proportion will be used to strengthen WFP monitoring systems to prevent political interference and ensure that the food is received by all those who require it.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and WFP crop assessment forecast, released in June 2008, projects that about 5.1 million Zimbabweans will suffer food insecurity.