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Cablegate: Slight Improvement in Food Security

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

231322Z Apr 03

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000783

SIPDIS

NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR J. FRAZER
LONDON FOR C. GURNEY
PARIS FOR C. NEARY
NAIROBI FOR T. PFLAUMER
USAID/W FOR DCHA/OFDA FOR HAJJAR, KHANDAGLE AND MARX,
DCHA/FFP FOR LANDIS, BRAUSE, SKORIC AND PETERSEN,
AFR/SA FOR POE AND COPSON, AFR/SD FOR ISALROW AND WHELAN
PRETORIA FOR FFP DISKIN AND OFDA BRYAN
NAIROBI FOR DCHA/OFDA/ARO FOR RILEY, MYER AND SMITH,
REDSO/ESA/FFP FOR SENYKORR
ROME PLEASE PASS TO FODAG

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV EAID ZI
SUBJECT: SLIGHT IMPROVEMENT IN FOOD SECURITY

REF: HARARE 423

-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. A monthly food monitoring report issued by the National
NGO Food Security Network (FOSENET) suggests a slight
improvement in the food security situation across the country
since January due to wider distribution of relief food and
early harvests. Despite these gains in rural areas, the
urban areas experienced a deterioration in food availability
because of the absence of urban feeding programs and the
scarcity and politicized distribution of Grain Marketing
Board (GMB) grain. Political bias in GMB grain distribution
was a problem for roughly half the reporting districts but
was not a barrier to receiving relief food. Information from
the partially functioning UN Relief Information and
Verification Office and an embassy database on incidents of
politicized food distributions suggests that most food
manipulations are of GMB food. Urban areas and Matabeleland
were areas most affected by these biased food distributions.
END SUMMARY.

------------------------------------
SLIGHT IMPROVEMENT IN FOOD SITUATION
------------------------------------

2. A monthly food monitoring report issued by the National
NGO Food Security Network (FOSENET) suggests a slight
improvement in the food security situation in half the rural
districts due to early harvest yields and successful WFP and
C-SAFE food aid distributions. Urban areas have
deteriorating food security situations. Exclusion from
beneficiary lists, transportation problems, policy gaps on
food supply for urban areas, and civil servants who cannot
get GMB food were the main obstacles to food access.

3. 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. This is FOSENET,s sixth report and covers
February and March 2003. It is based upon 132 and 147
reports from 53 and 58 districts for February and March,
respectively. The number of districts is more than in
December/January.

4. Conclusions from the report are as follows:

--By March, 31 districts, or 53 percent of responding
districts, reported an improved situation compared to more
than 60 percent of reporting districts reporting a
deteriorating food security situation in November, December,
and January.

--Vulnerability stayed about the same with 49 percent of
districts reporting everyone in need of food. In January it
was 47 percent.

--GMB deliveries continued to be erratic but the average
volume of deliveries per ward increased to 7.3 tons up from
1.8 tons in January. Matabeleland and Mashonaland East had
increased deliveries. Hurungwe in Mashonaland West continued
to report wards that have received no GMB food since October.
Umguza in Matabeleland North received no food since January,
while Gwanda in Matabeleland South and Chikomba in
Mashonaland East received none since November 2002.

-- Half the districts reported political bias in favor of
ZANU-PF party members in GMB grain access. The cost of GMB
sales was still a barrier to access with the upper price
range for a 10-kg bag of corn meal being Z$300, 158 percent
above the controlled price.

--Commercially supplied food was still scarce and expensive.
In 16 districts, workers for commercial suppliers, people
with political access, uniformed forces, youth (Green
Bombers), and people with business ties were granted access
to limited market supplies.

-- The informal market prices reached Z$8000 for a 10-kg bag
of corn meal in some areas of the Midlands--almost 70 times
the controlled price. The profit margin for GMB corn sold on
the informal market widened to Z$4200 from Z$2800 in January.

--Relief supplies improved in Mashonaland East and West and
in some parts of Manicaland but the eight urban districts
received no relief supplies. In two districts, Mhondoro in
Mashonaland West and Goromonzi in Mashonaland East, NGO
partners reportedly stopped food distributions because of
political interference.

--------------------------------
UN FOOD MONITORING AT STANDSTILL
--------------------------------

5. The UN Relief and Recovery Unit's (RRU), Relief and
Information Verification Office (RIVO) has made little
progress since it opened the Mutare monitoring site in
eastern Zimbabwe in February. Of the six UN volunteer field
monitors (UNV) George Olesh, head of RIVO, hopes to hire,
three are in Zimbabwe. The other three have not been hired
because of a glitch within the UNDP system whereby the office
in Brussels has not wired the money to the account in New
York. The UNV main hiring office in Bonn, Germany will not
process further hiring requests until this money appears in
their New York account. (See Reftel). In addition to
staffing shortfalls, RIVO is still waiting for GOZ support
and concurrence for the office's activities.

6. Olesh told PolOff that the ECHO representative in Zimbabwe
asked when RIVO would begin validation and complained that
the office was moving too slowly. Olesh told PolOff that the
partners will most likely need to reconvene to redefine their
expectations from RIVO. (COMMENT. Admittedly, the RIVO has
been slow in setting up operations but it is not unexpected.
The UN agencies cannot proceed without government
concurrence, as other NGOs, with short-term interests, may be
able to do. The UN agencies, in particular UNDP, have
long-term interests at stake and a favorable relationship
with the GOZ is necessary for long-term program success. END
COMMENT.)

7. Olesh told PolOff that during the March 17 GOZ/Donor
meeting, the Swedish Ambassador asked Ministry of Social
Welfare representatives if there would be a RIVO. The
government officials replied that they would not support
district level verification units as described in the
proposal. Their preference is to have a centrally located
office and then deploy teams comprised of NGO and GOZ
representatives. Olesh told us that such an arrangement
would defeat the purpose of the RIVO because the process
would be political and the reports would be edited down to
nothing.

8. In spite of these setbacks, Olesh is still relatively
optimistic that he will be able to open another office within
the next few months. He identified Gwanda in Matabeleland
South, which was declared a disaster area in March, as an
option. He said since Matabeleland South has no active
governor, the provincial administrator must get a consensus
of all district administrators before RIVO activities can
proceed. If the administrators make no decision by May 5,
Olesh said RIVO would try to open an office in Gweru, where
the governor is willing to host and support the effort.
Olesh also identified Muzarabani and Marondera in Mashonaland
Central as possible locations, banking on lingering district
and provincial level goodwill in response to UN relief
efforts during the Muzarabani floods in February.

9. Olesh told us that most of the complaints UNDP receives
about food distributions have to do with beneficiary
registrations and rates of expansions and have nothing to do
with politicization of food distributions. Most of the
complaints about politicized food come from Harare and
Bulawayo and involve access to GMB food.

----------------------------------------
LITTLE POLITICAL BIAS IN NGO FOOD ACCESS
----------------------------------------

10. PolOff has been keeping a database of incidents of food
distribution along political lines since October 2002.
Database entries are anecdotal reports by US Embassy
employees and friends of Embassy employees, press reports,
and individual NGO reports. The results of the database
suggest little in the way of political interference in
international relief food distributions but a fair amount of
interference in GMB food distributions. Most reports of
political interference came from Matabeleland.

11. In its most recent report, FOSENET reported sites in the
following districts as having difficulty with food access due
to political bias in food distribution: Lupane and Bubi in
Matabeleland North; Chimanimani and Mutare rural in
Manicaland; and Chinhoyi urban in Mashonaland West.

12. On April 1, the World Food Program issued a report of
suspensions and delays of WFP food distributions in 2003. In
half of the investigated incidents, which include the Insiza
incident reported in reftel, WFP suspected a political
motive. Only in Insiza are food distributions still
suspended. The NGOs involved in these isolated incidents are
ORAP in Insiza, World Vision in Murehwa and Wedza, and
Christian Care in Buhera.

-------
COMMENT
-------

13. The utility of the RIVO is waning fast. The Ministry of
Social Welfare's refusal to cooperate or endorse the effort
at the GOZ/donor meeting essentially eliminates any hopes the
donor community may have had to monitor GMB food. Since
there are few allegations of politicized food distributions
among relief agencies, the RIVO will have limited usefulness.
Fortunately, food access has steadily improved since the
beginning of the year and fewer rural districts have to
contend with the biases of the GMB. END COMMENT.
SULLIVAN

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