Cablegate: Fy09 Renewal of Disaster Declaration in Zimbabwe For


DE RUEHSB #0904/01 2801402
R 061402Z OCT 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

B) 06 HARARE 01230
C) 07 HARARE 00510
D) 07 HARARE 00930


1. The humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is deteriorating at a
more accelerated pace than last year. Continued Government of
Zimbabwe (GOZ) economic mismanagement, counter-productive government
policies, and corruption have resulted in a rapidly collapsing
economy, and growing impoverishment of a large segment of the
population. The current complex humanitarian crisis has been
compounded by political violence connected with this year's disputed
elections and an acute shortage of cereals and other staple foods in
country resulting in an estimated 50 percent of the population in
need of food aid over the next eight months. At the beginning of
FY08, Post issued a re-declaration of disaster for the complex
emergency and drought. This cable serves to renew the disaster
declaration for the complex emergency for FY09 as the economic and
food security situations show no signs of improving in the near
future even if there is a political settlement. Currently, the
political stalemate resulting from contested elections leaves
Zimbabwe with a government that can barely function and an
increasingly frustrated populace. While substantial food aid and
other humanitarian assistance were provided in FY08, continued
humanitarian assistance from USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster
Assistance (OFDA) will be required in FY09 to meet critical
humanitarian needs of both urban and rural populations. In FY08,
USAID/OFDA provided more than USD 7 million in humanitarian
assistance to Zimbabwe. END SUMMARY.

Humanitarian Crisis Background

2. Conditions for most Zimbabweans have gone from bad to worse
throughout FY08, making day-to-day survival even more difficult than
it was a year ago (Ref D). Following eight consecutive years of
economic decline, which has been characterized by hyperinflation
(now more than 11 million percent) and high unemployment rates,
Zimbabwe is increasingly unable to maintain the infrastructure
necessary for agricultural production, water and sanitation
services, and electricity. Basic items such as soap, sugar, maize
meal, bread, cooking oil, and meat can only be purchased on the
black market at prices far beyond the reach of most Zimbabweans. In
many areas of the country, these basic items are simply unavailable.
Increasingly, venders are demanding hard currency as the Zimbabwe
dollar loses its value within hours. Following the March 29
presidential and legislative elections in Zimbabwe, heightened
political tension led to general insecurity and significant violence
perpetrated on the most part by ruling party ZANU-PF forces. The
instability and attacks on individuals perceived to be opposition
MDC supporters created new displacement and increased humanitarian
needs, further eroding livelihoods and resulting in loss of housing,
crops and livestock. The June 4, 2008 GOZ ban on NGO humanitarian
activities severely limited NGOs' ability to respond to these
growing humanitarian needs until the suspension was lifted at the
end of August.

3. Access to social and public services such as health, water, and
electricity continues to decline dramatically and has substantially
impacted negatively on the welfare of displaced urban vulnerable
populations. Electricity is rationed and the water and sanitation
situation in both Bulawayo and Harare is dire. Residents of these
two cities often go for weeks without water, forcing them to rely on
streams and unprotected shallow wells. Lack of GOZ investment and
maintenance of urban water and sewage systems has resulted in an
increase in waterborne diseases such as dysentery and chol%UNmQ3xQde in
the country it is highly unlikely the GOZ will be able to access
enough foreign exchange to restore normal water, sanitation, and
electricity to urban areas. The GOZ's health care services are in a
shambles. Plagued by chronic lack of funds, critical shortages of
medical supplies and drugs, and low wages, many health care
professionals have left the country. Hyper-inflation has also put
basic health care out of reach for the most vulnerable populations.

4. There is currently a critical shortage of cereals and other
staples throughout the country. Even those with the financial
resources required to access food are out of luck due to lack of
availability in some areas. Results of national crop assessments

estimated that for 2008, the national average yield of maize
production was the lowest on record for Zimbabwe and about 40
percent of that in 2007. The exceptionally low production for 2008
is largely attributed to late planting due to untimely and
inadequate delivery of agricultural inputs, poor condition of
draught animals following the drought in 2007 and unavailability of
fertilizer. To make matters worse, there is a critical shortage of
seeds and fertilizer for this year's agricultural campaign. Unless
farmers are able to access these agricultural inputs by November 15,
which is highly doubtful, yields for 2009-2010 will again be low.

5. The GOZ was projected to import 800,000 MT of cereals through
the government's Grain Marketing Board (GMB) this year. To date,
only 250,000 MT have arrived in country according to FAO. WFP has
advised that it is highly unlikely the government will be able to
import the remaining 550,000 MT. Furthermore, the GOZ's Grain
Marketing Board has a statutory monopoly on all imported grains and
it is illegal for the private sector to import cereals. Efforts by
NGOs/WFP can help, but not fully replace the system nor fill the
cereal gap. Due to the national shortage of cash, barter has become
common in rural areas, although the terms of trade for livestock and
maize are declining dramatically in some areas of the country.
Coping mechanisms include reducing number of meals, increased
reliance on wild fruits, and selling off assets - primarily
livestock. Divestment of too many or all livestock will only knock
households further back resulting in higher numbers in need of
humanitarian assistance next year. In urban areas, tightly
restricted withdrawals of cash from banks add to the difficult
access to the little food that is available.

USG Humanitarian Assistance in FY08

6. Food Security, Agriculture, and Livelihoods: In FY08, USAID/OFDA
contributed approximately USD 2.2 million through C-SAFE, FAO, The
Joint Initiative (Mercy Corps), and Holistic Management to provide
agriculture, livelihood, and food security assistance. These
programs aim to improve food security for individuals living in
drought prone and marginal lands through the construction and
rehabilitation of water catchment structures, training in
conservation farming, and improvement of range management and
livestock health. The Joint Initiative program is targeting
thousands of Zimbabwe's most vulnerable populations in urban
settings with food, agriculture, and livelihood assistance. In
addition, in FY08, USAID/FFP contributed 151,500 MT of PL-480 Title
II emergency food assistance valued at more than USD 176 million to
World Food Program and C-SAFE. The emergency food aid program
targeting displaced populations, school children, the chronically
ill, orphans, and other vulnerable people was suspended during the
government ban on humanitarian activities, but both C-SAFE and WFP
are back in the field and preparing to scale up large scale
distributions by mid-October.

7. Mobile and Vulnerable Populations (MVP): Assistance for
internally displaced and vulnerable urban populations remains a
priority concern and need. Operation Murambatsvina (OM), which
destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in 2005, resulted in the
displacement of approximately 700,000 people. Thousands of
ex-commercial farm workers were also displaced with the fast track
land reform program. Random evictions and commercial farm worker
displacements still continue.

8. In FY08 the MVP population increased significantly as a result
of post-election political violence. The wave of violence that
swept the country following the March 29 elections resulted in an
estimated additional 30,000 displaced people. Thousands of homes
have been destroyed and crops and livestock burned. The level of
rural destitution and fear has risen markedly over the past year and
people are still afraid to return home. In FY08, USAID/OFDA
provided approximately USD 950,000 to IOM to help meet increased
needs for mobile and vulnerable urban populations.

9. Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene: As noted above, the water and
sanitation situation in country continues to deteriorate. Soap has
become a luxury item for a majority of the urban and rural poor. In
FY08, USAID/OFDA provided OXFAM/UK and World Vision with over USD 4
million to implement water, sanitation, and hygiene programs as well
as distribute emergency hygiene supplies (including soap) in
Bulawayo, Harare, and Masvingo Provinces. The OXFAM program is
providing basic hygiene items to vulnerable households and
conducting public health awareness activities. The World Vision
program is providing rooftop catchments structures to schools,
clinics, and vulnerable households in Bulawayo in addition to
protecting shallow household wells.


10. USAID/OFDA provided USD 100,000 to OCHA this year to support
their coordination role.

Renewal of Disaster Declaration for FY09

11. It is clear that the on-going complex political/economic
crisis, compounded by the impact of post-election political violence
and resultant displacement of thousands of people, the ban on NGO
activities, and the food security crisis has resulted in an
acceleration of the erosion of household resiliency of the poorest
segments of the urban and rural populations of Zimbabwe. It is also
clear that the Mugabe regime has neither the will nor the capacity
to respond to the magnitude of humanitarian needs created by these
multiple crises. Post is concerned about a possible further
deterioration in the current situation due to lack of availability
and high price of staple food items and agricultural inputs, the
growing difficulty of accessing cash from banks in urban areas,
continued deterioration of the water/sanitation infrastructure, and
the growing frustration on the part of the general population with
the drawn out political stalemate. Therefore, Post hereby renews
the referenced disaster declarations for FY09. Post will continue
to work closely with the regional offices of USAID/FFP and
USAID/OFDA to monitor the situation and determine what types of
additional humanitarian assistance may be required to save lives,
alleviate suffering, and reduce the economic impact of this complex


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