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UN agency appeals for $140 million to feed Zimbabweans in crisis

UN agency appeals for $140 million to feed Zimbabweans in crisis

WFP's project targets rural communities worst affected by this year’s very poor harvest.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today appealed for $140 million to feed some 4 million Zimbabweans over the next six months, warning that without more funds, the agency will run out of stocks by January.

A joint assessment conducted by WFP and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that more than 2 million people are already in need of assistance, and this number is expected to rise to 5.1 million – or 45 per cent of the population – in early 2009.

“Millions of Zimbabweans have already run out of food or are surviving on just one meal a day – and the crisis is going to get much worse in the coming months,” said Mustapha Darboe, WFP Regional Director for East, Central and Southern Africa. “WFP can prevent this crisis from becoming a disaster but we need more donations – and we need them now.”

The agency is planning to expand its relief programme within the country, as well as enhance the nutritional quality of its food basket to prevent malnutrition, a growing threat in Zimbabwe, where 28 per cent of children under five are already chronically malnourished.

Critical to these efforts is the timely provision of additional donations, without which WFP will run out of supplies in January. It currently faces a shortfall of over 145,000 metric tons of food, including 110,000 tons of cereals.

The agency has received almost $175 million so far in 2008, but another $140 million is urgently needed to fund WFP’s huge emergency operation until April 2009.

“Our donors have been extraordinarily generous over the past six years, but the food crisis is far from over. We are urging them to dig deep once again,” said Mr. Darboe, adding that cash donations will allow WFP to purchase crucial commodities within the regional itself.

After being delayed by the Government’s three-month suspension of field operations by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private voluntary organisations (PVOs), WFP and its partners began distributing monthly emergency rations at the start of October under its large-scale vulnerable group feeding programme.

Tens of thousands of beneficiaries have already received life-saving food aid over the past week under this programme and the agency hopes to reach 1.8 million people by the end of the month, and then around 3.3 million in the first three months of 2009 before the main cereal harvest begins in April.

WFP is also targeting around 800,000 people each month under its separate safety-net programmes, hoping to reach around 2.5 million people in October and more than 4 million in the first three months of 2009.

Another 1 million people living in areas not covered by WFP will be provided food by a group of United States-sponsored NGOs.

Last week UN humanitarian chief John Holmes highlighted the large resource gap and stressed the need for urgent aid for Zimbabwe. Although several months of humanitarian service delivery were lost, there is still time to avert increased human suffering, he stated.