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China Set to Donate Rice to Zimbabwe Worth $24 Million for Drought Relief Aid

FILE: Women queue for food assistance distributed by the United Nations World Food Programme in Mwenezi, about 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Harare, Zimbabwe, Wednesday, Sept. 9 2015.

Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Huang Ping, says the Asian nation is expected to provide rice worth about $24 million for drought relief aid as Zimbabwe faced a devastating El Nino-induced drought, which has resulted in serious food shortages.

Speaking at a drought-response stakeholders meeting co-hosted by the United Nations and the Office of the President and Cabinet, Ping said the Chinese government had given more than what the embassy had requested.

“I want to say that China is going to provide, donate rice worth 160 million Yuan ($24.6 million) as emergency food assistance,” said Ambassador Ping.

He said the assistance is more than double the Chinese government had provided to Zimbabwe in 2014 season.

The head of the United State Agency for International Development, Stephanie Funkie, and the British Agency for International Development chief, Annabel Gerry, also said they were in touch with their countries with a view to mobilize additional funding for drought relief.

Funkie said the USAID which has since June last year spent $35 million on humanitarian assistance in the country and would soon be making an announcement on additional funding.

"This year our budget is budget for $40 million which is already an increase and we received indications last week that there will be a substantial increase to this money,” she said.

European Union ambassador to Zimbabwe, Philippe Van Damme, said while the European Union was willing to assist it was worried by the discrepancies in the numbers of people who needed assistance.

"We are of course working on additional support measures but we are always asking for coherence on data because it makes it so much easier to plea with our capitals on what are the gaps so we are really waiting for the finalization of the updated humanitarian response plan because this will facilitate communications with our respective capitals," said Van Damme.

The government says almost 4 million people are in urgent need of drought relief aid. Air Commodore Jasper Marangwanda of the National Grain Command Centre said about 3.1 million people from virtually all rural districts were in need of food.

He said though government has secured resources to purchase grain, the state was failing to distribute the monthly national requirement of 30,400 metric tonnes. He said only 20,266 tons were being distributed monthly.

"This means that only 57 percent of the monthly grain requirements have been released by the Grain Marketing Board for distribution to the vulnerable," said Marangwanda.

He said there was need to compliment the Grain Marketing Board, the District Development Fund and the Road Motor Services in moving grain to ensure that all affected families received grain on time.

Zimbabwe has secured more than $240 million for the purchase of grain but is facing problems in bringing grain it into the country as neighboring nations like Zambia are also facing drought and had put restrictions on maize exports.

So far imports are coming from South America while Europe is also being considered as another maize source.

Irvin Chifera Reports on China's $24 Million Food Assistance to Zimbabwe
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