U.S. government plans to ship 73,500 metric tons of food to Zimbabwe and other Southern African countries are well advanced and distribution in the region is likely to begin next month, an American spokesperson told the Voice of America.
Spokeswoman Carla Benini of the U.S. mission to the United Nations food agencies in Rome – the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization – said no date has been set to launch distribution to begin, but it could begin in October.
The World Food Program says 10 million people in the region need food aid – 4 million in Zimbabwe, 4 million in Malawi, 1 million in Zambia, 500,000 in Lesotho, 400,000 in Mozambique, and 200,000 in Swaziland. Zimbabwe has been a focus for attention, in part because the Harare government is at odds with United Nations humanitarian aid officials over whether or not current food shortages mean widespread hunger.
The United States has been the main contributor to food relief efforts for the region. It contributed $51.8 million to direct 73,500 tonnes of food into the region.
WFP spokesman Mike Huggins in Johannesburg said he was not informed of the U.S. schedule, and was waiting for supplies to arrive before initiating distribution logistics.
The Zimbabwean government has said it wants to distribute food through its official channels, but Mr. Huggins said the WFP and its local partners will handle this.
Reporter Patience Rusere for VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Ms. Bernini.