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International Red Cross Announces New Food Initiative In Zimbabwe

The International Red Cross in Zimbabwe said it will soon resume food distribution to an increasingly hungry populace, signaling that international humanitarian organizations are seizing the initiative following a period of government-imposed inactivity.

Red Cross Country Representative Peter Lundberg said in a statement that it is critical to resume emergency food distributions because people have already faced months of short supplies. He added that conditions have deteriorated drastically in recent weeks.

United Nations food experts have estimated that some 5.1 million Zimbabweans could require food assistance by the first quarter of next year, following a failed maize harvest in the 2007-2008 crop year and disruption of harvests by election-related violence.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said trucks laden with 383 metric tonnes of food to benefit around 24, 000 people would shortly be setting out from warehouses in Harare, Bulawayo in the west and Mutare in the east.

Harare recently lifted a ban on humanitarian activities by non-governmental agencies it imposed in June ahead of a presidential run-off election, accusing them of partisanship.

Officials of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change, now the majority party in parliament and set to co-government with the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe, said prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai was scheduled to conduct a countrywide tour next week to assess the food situation.

Despite the lifting of the NGO aid ban and the signature Monday of an accord on power-sharing, spokesman Fambai Ngirande of the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations told Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that NGOs which have resumed their operations are facing all-too familiar problems in the field.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...