Humanitarian and other sources say the government of Zimbabwe has made a formal appeal to the international community for food assistance, albeit under a “gentlemen’s agreement” which stipulated that the request was not to be publicized.
The discreet deal also cleared the way for relief groups to distribute food nationwide.
An official with an international relief organization said that pursuant to the agreement between Harare and the United Nations Development Program, it has been setting up distribution outlets in all 10 provinces of the country making ready for a full-scale roll-out of food and other forms of aid to the country’s millions of needy.
Reports earlier this week said Harare had reached agreement with the World Food Program clearing the way for the distribution of food aid, but did not specify that the communication from the government had taken the form of a request.
The United Nations office for coordination of humanitarian assistance recently issued a unilateral appeal to donors for $30 million in funds to relieve the victims of the May-July slum-clearance campaign which left hundreds of thousands homeless. It moved unilaterally because Harare was unwilling to co-sponsor the appeal for funds.
Spokesman Mike Huggins of the World Food Program, which had been urging Harare for months to issue a formal appeal for food aid which the WFP could then take to donor countries, said Wednesday he had no knowledge of such an aid request.
Social Welfare Minister Nicholas Goche, over whose signature the letter is said to have gone to the UNDP - whose local head is also the leader of the United Nations country team for Zimbabwe - could not be reached for comment.
But economist Eddie Cross, an advisor to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he heard from diplomatic sources that Mr. Goche “quietly” signed the letter asking the international community for food supplies for up to 5 million people.
And in another sign that Harare is more prepared to acknowledge the critical shortage of maize meal and other staples, the state-run Herald newspaper said another Social Welfare Ministry official told a parliamentary committee that Zimbabwe must import grain to feed at least 2.2 million citizens who can no longer afford to buy food.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...