Cancellation Of UN Food Mission To Zimbabwe
CANCELLATION OF UN FOOD ASSESSMENT MISSION JEOPARDIZES FUTURE AID TO ZIMBABWE
New York, May 12 2004 6:00PM
By withdrawing its staff from a United Nations food production assessment mission last week, the Government of Zimbabwe has effectively cancelled the mission and UN aid agencies may not be able to rebuild their operations quickly in case of an emergency.
The Government invited the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to joint it in fielding a Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CSFAM) "to assess the level of food production for the 2003-2004 agricultural season," UN Resident Coordinator in Zimbabwe J. Victor Angelo said yesterday in a statement.
"It is with regret and concern that I have to put on record that on 4 May 2004 the Government of Zimbabwe recalled its field officers who were jointly participating in the assessment. Since the CSFAM is only conducted with the agreement and participation of the Government this action effectively cancelled the mission," he said.
The Zimbabwean Government had not replied to a request for clarification of its position, Mr. Angelo said.
The CSFAM, which produces credible production figures for planning purposes, was fielded on 30 April and was to have worked until 11 May, he said.
The responsibility for providing basic needs to a population lies with its own Government, but "we are concerned that should a food assistance need be identified later in the year and were the Government to issue an appeal at that time, a very rapid response may not be possible," Mr. Angelo warned.
The reasons for a slower response could be because the international community might not respond when the UN had had no chance to carry out its assessment at harvest time and WFP would have scaled back its operations in the country, he said.
A Food Security Brief last month, produced by a joint UN agency and Government team, estimated that the maize crop would be better than last year's, but only about 67 per cent to 80 per cent of need, "not…sufficient to cover domestic requirements for the coming year."
Meanwhile, "high inflation is decreasing real incomes, and high unemployment levels continue to reduce purchasing power for the majority of households," the Brief said.