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U.S Welcomes Investigations on Unfair Zimbabwe Food Aid Distribution

FILE: Then-US Ambassador to the UN food agency Tony Hall speaks to Zimbabwean villagers waiting to collect food aid near Mutare, Zimbabwe in this file photo.

The United States has welcomed the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission’s investigations into the distribution of food assistance along political party lines.

In a statement, the U.S. Embassy said, “As the largest contributor to humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe, the United States Agency for International Development has robust mechanisms in place to ensure that U.S. food assistance goes only to those most in need. While the report did not cite any complaints regarding USAID-funded humanitarian assistance, we are redoubling our efforts to reconfirm and ensure that our assistance is not subject to any form of political manipulation.”

Since June 2015, the U.S. government has contributed $117 million in response to the El Niño-induced drought in Zimbabwe to meet immediate food security needs while also building resilience against future droughts.

“The majority of USAID’s food assistance is provided through the World Food Program (WFP), which does not operate in any of the districts cited in the report. USAID does provide food assistance in Bikita through a long-term food security activity Enhancing Nutrition Stepping Up Resilience and Enterprise (ENSURE), implemented by World Vision. ENSURE has numerous oversight mechanisms in place to receive and investigate reports of fraud and abuse but has not received any reports of diversion of food aid or undue pressure on their staff.”

The Embassy said the United States has rigorous processes for safeguarding food assistance. “Our food commodities can be distinguished from other sources by their packaging, which is marked with the American flag and USAID logo. USAID also channels all food aid through WFP and other non-governmental organizations, and the food goes directly to the beneficiaries with no intermediary. USAID and our partners have robust measures in place to carefully and thoroughly monitor food distribution. This includes verifying transparent targeting of beneficiaries, ensuring smooth distribution of the food, and following up after distribution to ensure that the food reached its intended beneficiaries.

Most importantly, the U.S government said, these measures allow community members to report grievances or complaints in a direct or anonymous manner. “There is a suggestion box and a help desk at all food distribution points, as well as a toll-free hotline. USAID takes our responsibility to assist those most in need, regardless of political affiliation or geographic location, very seriously, and will continue to actively investigate any and all reports of possible political manipulation of U.S. government food assistance.”

According to the Human Rights Commission, food is being distributed along political lines in regions like Masvingo.