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Zimbabwe: UN envoy stresses urgency of helping millions facing food shortage

Zimbabwe: UN envoy stresses urgency of helping millions facing food shortage

James T. Morris
Continuing his visit to southern Africa, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan's Special Envoy on the region's humanitarian crisis, James Morris, today strongly urged increased donations to help more than 6 million people in Zimbabwe facing growing hardship.

While donors have been responsive, only $82 million - or one-third of the UN's $285 million appeal for Zimbabwe - has been received to help to country overcome widespread food shortages, caused in part by natural disasters and policy-related issues.

Mr. Morris' urgent appeal was made after visiting Bindura, north of the capital Harare, where thousands of people gathered for a food distribution. The Special Envoy arrived in Zimbabwe on Wednesday as part of a two-week UN mission to the six countries affected by the crisis.

"The magnitude of hardship was engraved on the faces I saw. I was struck by the tragic stories people told," said Mr. Morris, who is accompanied by Carolyn McAskie, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator for the UN Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as well as representatives from several UN agencies. "Clearly every day is a massive struggle to survive and the situation will only worsen over the months ahead."

During meetings with key government ministers, Mr. Morris and his team focused discussions on building cooperation between the international aid community and Harare. Other pressing issues included the importation of food aid containing genetically modified organisms, the urgent need for more non-governmental partners to help implement programmes, the situation of unemployed farm workers, as well as the politicization of humanitarian assistance.

"Overall, discussions with the political and humanitarian players have been conducted in an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual understanding about the severe crisis at hand. I feel encouraged that progress has been made," said Mr. Morris.