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Relief Agencies Wait for Mugabe Approval of Overdue Food Report

Aid agencies in Harare are expressing concern at the government’s reluctance to give approval to a rural food assessment report carried out six months ago by Zimbabwe's Vulnerabillity Assessment Committee. The committee involves officials from the Harare government, the United Nations, and non-governmental organizations.

The report has been approved by the cabinet, but until President Mugabe signs off on it the document has no effect. NGO Christian Care told VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that conflicting government figures make it hard to raise funds from donors for food aid. Leaked portions of the document indicate some 1.4 million people in Zimbabwe’s rural areas continue to need food aid, while one third of primary school children in rural areas are dropping out because of hunger and deepening poverty.

Other nations in the Southern African Development Community released draft reports in May and issued final reports in June. Officials at Harare relief agencies who spoke on condition of anonymity said President Mugabe's delay could hamper a planned assessment of food aid needs in the Zimbabwe's urban centers.

For an assessment of the latest food policy controversy, reporter Blessing Zulu turned to researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, South Africa, who said the delay reflects the decline of governance in Harare.

Elsewhere, Reserve Bank Governor Gideon Gono said wheat the government has imported at a cost of some US$10 million will last the country for more than 2 months. He said the hard currency the RBZ made available bought 30,400 tonnes of wheat.

But opposition agriculture expert Renson Gasela said the imports were “too little too late.” Gasela, who belongs to the Movement for Democratic Change faction led by Arthur Mutambara, told reporter Patience Rusere that the ongoing wheat harvest is likely to produce only about half of the total 400,000 tonnes the country needs.

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