Half of Zimbabwe dependent on aid, says UN humanitarian chief

UN calls for increased farming production to prevent an extra 2 million people becoming reliant on food and medical aid

Almost half the population of Zimbabwe could soon be dependent on food and medical aid, the UN’s humanitarian chief said today.

John Holmes, the UN’s under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, said that around 3 million people were already reliant on aid, and that figure could rise to more than 5 million.

He said it was a critical time because preparations needed to be made now for next year’s harvest to avoid millions more people becoming reliant on aid. The main growing season in Zimbabwe lasts from now until March.

“Planting season for the next harvest starts in five or six weeks’ time, at least for maize, and there is massive shortage of seeds and fertilisers in the country because of the economic situation,” he told the BBC’s World Today programme.

“We’re looking to see whether we can accelerate even at this late stage and get some of those seeds and fertilisers and other imports into the hands of small farmers,” said Holmes.

He said he hoped the farmers would plant more seeds “so they can harvest more, so we have less of a food assistance problem next year”.

Holmes also said that access for aid agencies had improved since last month’s power-sharing deal was agreed between the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

Mugabe ordered aid groups to suspend work in June ahead of the presidential run-off election, leaving millions at the mercy of state food distribution. Aid groups also complained that the government had given food primarily to Mugabe supporters.

The UN estimated Zimbabwe’s population at 13.3 million in 2007, with an average life expectancy of 44 for men and 43 for women.

Jenny Percival
Thursday October 02 2008 11:46 BST

Source: The Guardian

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