The White House on Tuesday denounced the crackdown on prices mounted by the government of Zimbabwe, saying it has "further eroded human and economic liberty" in the country. But it tempered that message with a pledge to provide the people of Zimbabwe with an additional 47,400 tonnes of food to stave off hunger.
The U.S. statement said Washington would add that amount of food aid to what it was already providing to Zimbabwe through the U.S. Agency for International Development and the United Nations World Food Program among other assistance agencies.
The White House delivered a harsh criticism of Harare's ongoing offensive on high prices, saying the government's operation “operation Dzikasai Mitengo,” or “Reduce Prices,” has “further eroded human and economic liberty in Zimbabwe."
Slamming what it called "the regime’s reckless attempts to address self-imposed hyperinflation" the statement said Harare’s “irresponsible economic policies will only worsen inflation, unemployment, growing food shortages, and poverty.”
Noting projections that 4 million Zimbabweans could go hungry between now and the next harvest without foreign aid, the White House said the additional food aid would relieve 500,000 more Zimbabweans, bringing the total to 1.4 million people.
The statement added that the government of President Robert Mugabe has continued to crack down on the political opposition, saying this raised “significant questions” about Harare's commitment to South African-mediated crisis talks.
The statement concluded: "Many brave Zimbabweans from all spectrums of society are fighting to secure freedom and a better life, and we stand ready to engage a new Zimbabwean government committed to democracy, human rights, sound economic policy and the rule of law.” VOA was unable to obtain an immediate response from the Zimbabwean government to the White House statement.
Meanwhile, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has warned that Zimbabwe is in an “unprecedented phase of hardship” with conditions deteriorating.
It said the plight of 1.6 million Zimbabwean orphans infected with HIV or suffering from AIDS has worsened and they are not likely to survive as only 6% of all children have access to antiretroviral drugs and the health care system is in collapse. The report added that price controls caused acute shortages of basic commodities.
Spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs of the U.N. humanitarian office told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that her agency has so far raised US$122 million to help vulnerable groups, about half the amount it seeks.
VOA reporter Lisa Schlein reported from Geneva that the U.N. Children's Fund said Zimbabwe's children have entered a new phase of hardship.
From Harare, Christian Care Director Forbes Matonga said his organization is giving first priority to the many thousands of children who are vulnerable.