Cablegate: Little Improvement in Food Security Since November

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

1. A monthly monitoring report issued by the National NGO
Food Security Network (FOSENET) suggests little improvement
in the food security situation across the country since
November, due to absolute scarcity of food. The food
security situation is poised to improve among eligible WFP
beneficiaries in February since food aid deliveries have
improved and all implementing partners are operational.
Transportation problems and a thriving black market in corn
meal will ensure that other groups not eligible for
international food aid will go hungry. End summary.

Little Improvement in Food Situation

2. A monthly monitoring report issued by the National NGO
Food Security Network (FOSENET) suggests little improvement
in the food security situation across the country due to
absolute scarcity of food--this in spite of increased levels
of WFP and other international food aid. The report also
suggests increasing levels of politicization of Grain
Marketing Board (GMB) and commercial food and profiteering in
food distribution and access. Absolute scarcity surpassed
cost and selective bias in access as major impediments to
food security. FOSENET is a network of 24 Zimbabwean NGOs,
organized in March 2002 to monitor food needs, availability,
and access through NGOs based within districts, and through
community based monitors.

3. This was FOSENET,s fifth report. It is based upon 133
reports from 43 of Zimbabwe's 57 districts covering the
period December 2002 through January 2003. The report covers
fewer districts than the November version, making comparisons
difficult. NGO and community monitoring were combined in
this round, which led to more than one report being received
from more than 60 percent of districts.

4. Overall conclusions from the report are as follows:

--Food security worsened in 27 districts, or 63 percent of
responding districts, in December and January. In November,
75 percent of reporting districts reported increased food
insecurity when compared to October levels. Only Nyanga in
Manicaland reported increased supplies, while in nearby
Mutare rural people were reported to be moving away from
their homes because of hunger.

--Vulnerability dropped slightly from November with the share
of districts reporting everyone in need of food decreasing
from 51 percent in November to 47 percent in December/January.

--Close to half of all districts (49 percent) reported
falling, erratic GMB supplies. In November, two-thirds of
respondents reported falling GMB supplies. In spite of this
seeming improvement in GMB supplies, the average volume of
deliveries per ward declined to 1.8 tons from 3.4 tons in
November and 9.3 tons in October. Matabeleland North and
South and Mashonaland West have consistently reported one or
more districts with no GMB deliveries over the last six
months. Hurungwe in Mashonaland West and Lupane in
Matabeleland North have reported wards that have not received
GMB deliveries since October and July, respectively. Buhera
in Manicaland and Tsholotsho in Matabeleland North, with
several months of no delivery in November, did not report
this round.

--Political barriers and procedural bias continued to be
obstacles to accessing GMB grain. These barriers increased
from 38 percent of districts in November to 62 percent in
December/January. The major barrier to food access was the
requirement to produce a ZANU-PF party card. To get a letter
from the councilor or headman to certify residence, potential
beneficiaries had to demonstrate ruling party membership or
participation in ruling party activities.

--The cost of GMB sales was a barrier to access in 10 percent
of districts, less than the 22 percent in November and 38
percent in October. The upper price range for a 10-kg bag of
corn meal was Z$260, 124 percent above the controlled price.

--Reduced supply and political barriers were major reported
obstacles to commercially supplied food. Political
interference in commercial sales, in particular the youth
militia and police controlling food queues or claiming
preferential access, increased since the November report.
This is most likely due to the increased scarcity of food.

--The upper price range for a 10-kg bag of corn meal on the
informal market was Z$3000 in December/January, almost 25
times the controlled price. The price differential between
the official GMB price for a 10-kg bag of corn meal and the
informal market price has widened from Z$490 in July 2002 to
Z$2800 in January. Even though the value of the Zimbabwe
dollar has fallen over the last seven months, this represents
a significant cost escalation for poor people whose incomes
have not kept pace with inflation.

--The report indicated mixed results in terms of relief
supplies. Six district sites reported an increase in relief
supplies, ten reported no change in supply, two (Zvimba and
Chivi) reported a fall, and at least eight (Hwedza, Seke,
Murewa, Goromonzi, Chikomba, Chinhoyi, Hurungwe, and Makonde)
reported no supplies at all. The primary barriers to relief
aid were procedural and related to households not qualifying
for inclusion on beneficiary lists. At least three districts
reported incidents of political bias or interference: Gutu in
Masvingo, Gweru in Midlands, and Makoni in Manicaland.

Relief Food on Pace

5. World Food Program more than doubled its deliveries in
January from December and is poised to distribute close to
its target of 53,562 tons in February. This would see an
increase in beneficiaries from 2.2 million in December to 4.3
in February. WFP anticipates all 48 WFP-designated districts
will receive food assistance during February so the next
FOSENET report should indicate either no change or an
increase in relief food aid. The remaining nine rural
districts will be covered through other pipelines, including
the USG's C-SAFE program that covers seven districts.

Transportation Woes Besiege Government Deliveries
--------------------------------------------- ----

6. Deliveries of GMB supplies of corn meal are unlikely to
improve in the near term because of transportation
bottlenecks. The state-sponsored newspaper, The Herald,
reported that the GMB was having problems bringing in
shipments from seaports, Beira and Maputo in Mozambique and
East London in South Africa. The GMB has blamed neighboring
country rail networks, port facilities, the port operators
demanding foreign currency for the transportation
bottlenecks, and inadequacy and unreliability of the National
Railways of Zimbabwe. More recently, the GOZ has indicated
its inability to compete with foreign exchange prices paid by
WFP and other international importers for limited available
transport services.

7. NGOs continue to insist that the current fuel shortage
has not and will not have an effect on food distributions.
This is counterintuitive, particularly since most
international donors contract independent truckers, who do
not have consistent access to fuel, to transport food. Of
greater concern to the NGOs is the shortage of spare parts.

Political Bias in Food Access

8. Since the last FOSENET report in November, both the
independent and state-owned press have reported more
incidents of political party members denying GMB food to
select groups of people and of people profiteering.

--In Gweru, the Daily News reported the arrest and detention
of a city councilor after he failed to account for the
presence of 30 bags of corn meal in his home. (NOTE:
Councilors nationwide have been given full responsibility to
collect meal from millers for distribution. END NOTE.)
--In Mutare, the Daily News reported an investigation of the
deputy mayor and a councilor (both ZANU-PF) for allegedly
distributing corn meal in a non-transparent way and along
political lines. The Mutare mayor, who is a relatively
independent ZANU-PF figure, is leading the investigation.

--In Mashava, the Daily News reported that ZANU-PF supporters
blocked food aid from going into town because they believe
the councilor for the district, who is a member of MDC, is
excluding ZANU-PF supporters.
--In Masvingo, a former ZANU-PF MP for Harare South was
arrested for having five metric tons of corn believed to have
come from the GMB under dubious circumstances.

--In Gutu, The Herald reported Deputy Minister of Youth
Development, Gender, and Employment creation, Shuvai Mahofa
was fined for overcharging (by Z$2800) on corn in one of her
shops. Police are also investigating 10 metric tons of corn
found at a mill she owns. Earlier in the month, the manager
of the Gutu GMB was charged with corruptly selling corn to
one of Mahofa,s mills.

8. At first glance, the smaller proportion of districts
reporting a deteriorating level of food security and no
deliveries of GMB food might lead one to believe that the
situation had improved significantly since November.
However, a meaningful comparison between this report and the
last one is difficult since this one queried ten fewer
districts than the previous one. These ten districts could
change the overall conclusion of the report. The seemingly
improved GMB coverage is also misleading in that it does not
factor in the decreased volume and frequency of deliveries.
Nonetheless, the food security situation should improve over
the next few months mainly because of increased food relief
supplies from international donors. Unfortunately, this will
only benefit those sufficiently destitute to make it onto the
beneficiary rolls. Logistical constraints and political bias
in distribution will limit food access of the remaining
people. Too, the increased opportunities for profiteering on
the parallel market will continue to reduce available GMB
supplies. End Comment.

© Scoop Media

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