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US Gives $10M More in Hunger Aid

USAID and WFP in Zimbabwe
The United States on Monday provided an additional $10 million to support vulnerable families suffering the effects of drought in Zimbabwe. That brings the total assistance in 2013 from the US to Zimbabwe for drought and hunger relief to $25 million USD.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced in Harare that the additional amount will be managed by the United Nations World Food Program to fight hunger in the country, caused by poor harvests this year following erratic rainfall.

The U.S. Government said, according to this year’s vulnerability assessment, the number of hungry people needing food assistance during the peak hunger season—between January and March 2014—will rise by 32 percent from last year to nearly 2.2 million individuals, or a quarter of the rural population.

USAID’s mission director in Zimbabwe, Melissa Williams, said in a statement released earlier Monday that “although the US government and other major donors are transitioning assistance in Zimbabwe from humanitarian relief to promoting sustainable development, humanitarian assessments continue to indicate that significant numbers of people in Zimbabwe still require seasonal assistance to meet their minimum food needs.”

Today’s contribution brings America’s total support to food relief in Zimbabwe this year to $25 million. Since 2002, America has contributed $1.1 billion towards humanitarian support to Zimbabwe.

Agriculture Minister Joseph Made welcomed the American gesture, saying the Zanu-PF government will do all it can to improve agricultural production to ensure that Zimbabweans don’t starve.

Made said his department is improving the farm mechanization programme and the country’s irrigation systems to boost agricultural output in the 2013-2014 farming season.

But MDC-T shadow minister of agriculture, Samuel Sipepa Nkomo, told VOA Studio 7 that irrigation systems can only be improved if more dams are constructed.

Nkomo also urged the Zimbabwean authorities to issue title deeds to new farmers who were recently resettled under the country’s land reform programme so that they can access bank loans.

Nkomo called for a land audit so that farms that are being underutilized may be put to good use in order to improve agricultural output and ultimately boost the country’s agro-based economy.

President Robert Mugabe has previously called for a one-man-one-farm policy but several senior officials in his Zanu-PF party have multiple large farms.

Meanwhile, some supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change in Mudzi North, Mashonaland East province, said the government is denying them agricultural inputs once again due to their political affiliation.

The supporters said the current councilor and some former war veterans on Monday barred them from accessing maize seed and other inputs, saying they were only reserved for Zanu-PF supporters.

Villagers told VOA that the situation deteriorated into violence after one of them, Mapuweyi Nyamambara, was allegedly hit in a confrontation with village heads that refused to give her maize seed claiming that she did not belong to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Most farmers in the region said to be aligned to MDC formations have in the past been denied such agricultural inputs. Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has been monitoring the distribution of these inputs in some parts of the country.

Spokesman Thabani Nyoni said attempts are being made in some areas to distribute maize seed and other inputs in a non-partisan manner.

While on fact-finding missions in areas such as Lupane, Victoria Falls and Tsholotsho, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition found that although there were reports of such incidents, government entities were working to assist all villagers in accessing grain.

Nyoni said in some incidents, those Zanu-PF members who were accused of partisan distribution of farming inputs were summoned to provincial offices after complaints were made.