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Australia Gives US$1 Million Food Aid To Zimbabwe; More Needed

The Australian government Wednesday pledged US$1 million emergency food aid for Zimbabwe through the World Food Program, but a spokesman for the United Nations agency said it continued to seek further resources for Zimbabwe and the region.

The United Nations agency has been asking donors to provide US $60 million for the Southern African region. But for various reasons including competing needs in other parts of Africa, the sought-after aid monies have been slow to materialize..

In a statement, senior Australian foreign affairs official Tony Parkinson said the aid just pledged comes on top of Australia’s contribution of US$3 million to international humanitarian aid relief efforts for Zimbabwe during 2005 and 2006.

He said that although the government of Australian Prime Minister John Howard has imposed targeted sanctions on the Harare leadership and condemned its policies, it continues to provide aid to the people of Zimbabwe who, he said, are “victims of their government’s human rights abuses and gross economic mismanagement.”

Humanitarian groups said donors are currently riveted by the humanitarian situation in Sudan’s Darfur region, where Sudanese-backed militias have murdered hundreds of thousands of villagers and driven hundreds of thousands more into camps.

But Bulawayo Archbishop Pius Ncube remarked this week that more people are dying in Zimbabwe each week than in Darfur. He said some 3,500 people die each week from what he called a “unique convergence of malnutrition, poverty and aids.”

The WFP said in May that about 1.4 million Zimbabweans would be in critical need of food aid this year. But it was obliged to scale back operations in October.

In an interview from Johannesburg, South Africa, Huggins told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the Australian aid came at the right time.

Attorney Otto Saki of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights commended Australia for its generosity - and its outspokenness on Harare’s human rights record.

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