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Harare Withholds Appeal for Food Aid, Putting Off Donors

The World Food Program is finding it difficult to organize food aid for Zimbabwe in the absence of a formal request from its government, said a WFP spokesman. President Robert Mugabe said early last month that Zimbabwe would accept food assistance – but only if there were no political strings attached. Though the World Food Program’s chief made no objection to this position, Harare has not formally asked for food aid.

Mike Huggins, the WFP’s spokesman for the Southern African region, said Monday that the lack of a formal request makes it harder to line up donors to fund food aid. He said about 4 million Zimbabweans need 1.8 million tonnes of grain. WFP aid comes from some 60 governments, the United States and Europe Union among them.

Mr. Huggins provided reporter Patience Rusere of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe with an update on the status of food aid, noting that a food vulnerability study which the WFP had helped prepare was to be presented to the cabinet this week.

Meanwhile, riot police in Mutare, on Zimbabwe's eastern border with Mozambique, were called to a supermarket to control a crowd of shoppers who had rushed to the store after hearing it had received deliveries of scarce sugar and maize meal. Store security guards called in police after the line stretched over 200 meters.

Reporter Sydney Sithole for VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe was on the scene.