Cablegate: New Ngos Struggle to Stave Off Famine

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A


B. HARARE 2342
C. HARARE 2403
D. HARARE 2372

1. SUMMARY: The mid-October accreditation of three
additional NGOs to serve as WFP implementing partners by the
Government of Zimbabwe is a welcome step but will do little
to reduce the increasing levels of malnutrition in the
country. Wasting among children under five was close to the
upper limit for non-drought Africa, and stunting was among
the highest in the world, according to a study published in
September. Without a relaxation of grain import restictions,
clarification on the importation of additional
biotechnology-derived corn, and an infusion of corn into the
country, these additional implementing partners will be
insufficient for the fight against starvation. (NOTE: This
is the first in a series of regular food security and
nutritional updates. END NOTE.) END SUMMARY.

New NGOs Struggle to Set Up
2. In October, the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) accredited
three more NGOs (GOAL, CONCERN, and Catholic Relief Services
(CRS)) to be WFP implementing partners. With the addition of
these NGOs, 49 districts out of 57 will be serviced. These
new NGOs hope to be distributing food by the end of the year
but face great logistical challenges. Save the Children-UK,
CARE International, World Vision, and Catholic Relief
Services will service most remaining districts through
bilateral arrangements. The other WFP implementing partners
are World Vision, Plan International, Organization of Rural
Associations for Progress (ORAP), Lutheran World Federation
(LWF), Help Age, Christian Care, and CARE International.

3. Political Officer spoke with country director for
CONCERN, Mike McDonnagh about the recent accreditation.
CONCERN, an Irish NGO, will operate in Gokwe and Kwekwe in
Midlands province and Nyanga in Manicaland province. They
will feed 570,000 people with 40,000 metric tons (MT) of food
over four months. McDonnagh said he hoped to begin
distributing food by the end of November but was just
beginning beneficiary registration and hiring local staff.
CONCERN will need to purchase and install computers in the
field. McDonnagh was optimistic about getting everything in
place, saying GOZ representatives had been very helpful since
CONCERN received accreditation.

4. Political Officer spoke with a CRS representative, Greg
Bastion, who said CRS will distribute food to 291,628 people
in Chegutu, Makonde, and Kadoma districts in Mashonaland
West. CRS is planning to distribute 4086 tons of food per
month. Bastion said CRS was well positioned to increase
capacity because it was already working in country providing
supplementary and therapeutic feeding to patients in
hospices. Bastion said CRS still needed at least six weeks
to get everything in place for a successful food
distribution. CRS was in the process of hiring staff,
finding warehouses and office space, procuring vehicles, and
supplying the offices. CRS was not as optimistic as CONCERN
about when actual food distributions will begin but would
only say that they would like them to begin before 2003.

5. WFP public affairs officer, Luis Clemens, told us that in
spite of their best efforts, CONCERN and GOAL would not be up
and running by mid-November, although hopefully by the
beginning of December. He also said GOAL, an Irish NGO, will
feed 392,000 beneficiaries in Hurungwe in Mashonaland West
province and Makoni in Manicaland province. They will
distribute 27,405 MT of food aid between November 2002 and
March 2003. GOAL has started fieldwork but has the same
logistical issues as CONCERN.

6. WFP plans to increase food distributions to more than
50,000 metric tons per month between November 2002 and April
2003 and increase the beneficiary load to 5.9 million.
According to the UN Relief and Recovery Unit, as of October
15, the WFP had distributed a total of 53,047 MT of food to
1.05 million people since the end of February. The addition
of CONCERN, CRS, and GOAL will increase WFP capacity by
20,000 MT per month and beneficiaries by 1.25 million.
COMMENT: Even if the WFP implementing partners succeed in
setting up their relief distribution operations, they may not
have the corn to distribute because of restrictive GOZ
policies on grain trade and biotechnology-derived foods. See
Reftels C and D for a discussion of these supply constraints.

7. The WFP implementing partner and district breakdowns are
as follows:
--World Vision: Chiredzi, Gwanda, Matobo, Umguza, Bubi,
Lupane, Chikomba, Wedza, Seke, Marondera, Goromonzi, Murehwa,
Mutoko, Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe (UMP), Mudzi, Mt. Darwin
--Plan International: Mutare, Mutasa
--ORAP: Hwange, Tsholotsho, Umzingwane, Insiza
--LWF: Shurugwi
--Help Age: Nkayi
--Christian Care: Chipinge, Buhera, Kariba, Guruve, Zvimba,
Mazowe, Bindura, Muzarabani, Rushinga
--CARE: Zvishavane, Chivi, Mberengwa, Mwenezi, Masvingo,
Zaka, Bikita
--CONCERN: Kwekwe, Gokwe North, Gokwe South, Nyanga
--GOAL: Hurungwe, Makoni
--Catholic Relief Services: Chegutu, Kadoma, Makonde.

Nutritional Status to Worsen
8. In spite of the additional implementing partners, the
nutritional status of the population, in particular of
children, continues to worsen. A September Zimbabwe
Emergency Food Security Assessment Report prepared by FEWSNET
and the Zimbabwe National and SADC FANR Vulnerability
Assessment Committee (VAC) showed a worsening nutritional
status when compared with previous studies. (Direct
comparison between the various studies is not possible
because of different sampling methods, but the VAC results
affirm a deteriorating nutrition situation nationally.)
Approximately 7 percent of children aged 6 to 59 months
showed evidence of wasting or low weight for height
measurement. Wasting reflects acute or recent nutritional
deficits and at its most severe is linked to increased
mortality risk. Wasting prevalences of 5 to 10 percent are
usual in African populations in non-drought periods. More
than 41 percent of children sampled were stunted, low height
for age. Stunting reflects the cumulative effect of chronic
malnutrition. Stunting prevalence ranges from 32 percent in
developing countries to 43 percent in the least developed
countries, according to UNICEF. Wasting was highest among
children aged 6 to 11 months (9.7 percent) while stunting was
highest among the 12-23 month olds (49.1 percent).

9. Interviews by embassy political officers during field
trips to rural areas during rural council elections and the
Ambassador,s Midlands province trip highlight the growing
concern child nutrition has become for the general population.
--Manicaland: A German physician who runs a clinic where she
treats victims of violence noted that malnutrition levels
among children were up compared to last year. She also said
she had not seen the distended bellies but had noticed signs
of wasting, kwashiorkor, redness and loss of hair, and
scaling skin.
--Matebeleland: Political Officers visited St. Luke,s
Mission Hospital about 100 km north of the city of Bulawayo.
The resident German doctor said he had witnessed a dramatic
rise in the numbers of adults and children affected by
malnutrition in the last two months. In the hospital ward
set aside for malnutrition cases, all the toddlers suffered
from wasting and several were suffering from skin lesions and
kwashiorkor, and at least one had reddish hair. The doctor
said he expected all of the children in the malnutrition ward
to either die from HIV/AIDS, which afflicted 80-90 percent of
the hospital,s patients, or malnutrition (See Reftel A).
--Midlands: Chief Cyprian Malisa of Silobela in Midlands
province told political officer that one child had already
died in one of his areas of jurisdiction and three other
children looked to be near death. (See Reftel B)
--In addition, the independent newspaper The Daily News
reported on October 16 that two people in Binga had died
recently of starvation, and that school children were
fainting at their desks from hunger.

10. COMMENT: It is unlikely that WFP and its implementing
partners will be able to stave off widespread malnutrition
despite their best efforts. GOZ recalcitrance in admitting
there would be food shortages, accrediting NGOs to help in
food aid distribution, and allowing free trade of grain has
made a successful response to the crisis unlikely. The
nutritional level of children in Zimbabwe has undoubtedly
worsened over the last 3-4 months, since the completion of
the VAC survey, and may be approaching critical levels. The
VAC, as well as individual NGOs, plans to conduct regular
nutritional surveys and to monitor the status of children.
Per Reftel D, USAID/OFDA is also exploring possible USG
support for establishing a national nutrtional sentinel
surveillance system for Zimbabwe. END COMMENT.

© Scoop Media

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