Cablegate: Situation in Zimbabwe Remains Critical:

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
SUBJECT: Situation in Zimbabwe Remains Critical:
Continuing Government Obstruction Jeopardizes
Humanitarian Response

REF: A. Pretoria 03182, B. Harare 00978


1. The significant 2002/2003 response by the
international humanitarian community to the complex food
security crisis in Zimbabwe averted famine. Although
the current harvest is expected to be marginally better
than last year's, the situation remains fragile and will
require substantial quantities of continued humanitarian
assistance. This season's harvest is expected to
fulfill only 40 percent of the country's food
requirements, and "hotspots" of high malnutrition will
become more critical, particularly in the "hungry"
season. The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that up
to 5.5 million people, almost half the country's
population, will require food assistance during December
2003 to March 2004. Given the downward spiraling
economy, soaring inflation, political stasis and
diminished capacity of the government of Zimbabwe (GOZ)
to import sufficient commodities to meet projected
needs, the humanitarian situation is likely to
deteriorate further in coming months.

2. Exacerbated at every level by the HIV/AIDS pandemic,
the current crisis requires innovative and more
carefully targeted interventions and enhanced
information-sharing and cooperation among all
humanitarian partners in country.

3. Unfortunately, the capacity of the humanitarian
community (UN, donors, NGOs and other/private interests)
to plan and execute such interventions continues to be
seriously compromised by the government's unwillingness
to acknowledge the severity of the situation, to release
officially either government data or survey results
compiled by the UN and other credible sources, or to
make any commitment as to GOZ plans to fulfill its
responsibilities to mitigate food insecurity and other
critical needs of Zimbabweans. Further, although
President Mugabe declared a disaster in many parts of
the country in April, the government still has not yet
made a formal request for international humanitarian
assistance for the coming year. This, combined with
continuing government intransigence on key policy and
operational issues, seriously jeopardizes an effective
humanitarian response.


5. On June 11-12, 2003, the United Nations Regional
Inter-Agency Coordination and Support Office (RIACSO)
and the Southern African Development Commission (SADC)
co-hosted a Stakeholders Meeting in Johannesburg, South
Africa. The purpose of the meeting was to review the
response to the Southern African Food Security Crisis
over the past year, examine the post-harvest situation
in the six focus countries (Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique,
Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) and discuss needs and
plans for humanitarian assistance through April 2004.

6. The main conclusions of the regional meeting were as
-- The substantial humanitarian resources provided to
the region during the last year, including US
contributions of food and cash valued at over USD 290
million, have largely stabilized malnutrition rates and
facilitated the recovery of national food security.
-- With the exception of Zimbabwe and southern
Mozambique, the overall humanitarian situation has
improved, although localized areas of serious food
insecurity remain in all countries.
-- The deepening HIV/AIDS pandemic has contributed to a
slower-than-normal recovery and will increasingly impact
humanitarian and developmental programming.
-- In order to mitigate the impact of future economic
and climatic shocks there is increasing need to
implement integrated relief and development programs
-- Continued humanitarian assistance is required at
varying levels in 2003/2004 in all six countries, even
those which are recovering from the crisis. [Note: See
Reftel A for a detailed resume of conclusions and
recommendations for regional action. End Note.]


7. At the RIASCO meeting, preliminary findings from
three long-awaited assessments were presented: the
Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) surveys; the
FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CSAM)
reports; and the UNICEF nutritional survey for Zimbabwe.
With the exception of the Malawi VAC, which had not yet
been completed, all assessments were presented with the
knowledge and support of the governments involved. In
the case of Zimbabwe, all three were presented without
any official concurrence by the GOZ, and none has been
officially released as of this date.

8. In the absence of published data, donors, NGOs,
International Organizations and UN agencies have been
drawing up strategies, projections and plans for
humanitarian assistance as best they can on the basis of
"working" numbers. Using these unverified numbers has
been especially essential for planning implementation of
agricultural interventions. In order to plant at the
optimal time, for example, seed must be sourced,
ordered, received and distributed in time for November
planting. There is a risk of getting the quantities
wrong, but insufficient quantities would be preferable
to no seed at all or seed planted too late. [Note: The
UN 2003 Consolidated Appeal (CAP) for Zimbabwe has
benefited from the preliminary findings released
unofficially by the UN and is scheduled to be launched
23 July 2003. WFP is also developing a new Regional
EMOP based on these figures for release in early July
2003. End Note.]


9. Although the final Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment
Committee (ZIMVAC) April (2003) update and joint U.N.
World Food Program (WFP) and Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) Crop and Food Supply Assessment
Mission (CFSAM) report have not yet been released
officially, the preliminary findings disclosed at the
RIASCO meeting and by the UN in Harare this week
generally confirm the cereal production quantities and
shortfalls, cereal access and rural food security
projections for 2003/2004 that have already been
transmitted to Washington by the Mission (Reftel B).

10. To recap the major projections made in Reftel B: The
projected 2002/03 harvest will be about 800,000 MT for
maize and about 1,100,000 MT for all cereals, against
projected requirements of over 2,200,000 MT. Although
60 percent higher than last year's maize production
(498,500 MT), this total remains only 55 percent of
production in 2000/01 (1,476,240 MT) and less than half
(48 percent) of Zimbabwe's 1990s average maize
production (1,705,825 MT), signifying the continuing
negative impact of erratic weather, the government's
chaotic land redistribution program and its gross policy
failures over the past several years affecting all
aspects of the agricultural production system including
on-farm operations, producer incentives and shortages of
essential agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers
and draught power (fuel).

11. There are some significant differences and
developments reflected in the information just released
that were not included in Reftel B. Wheat production is
now projected to be only 50,000, not the 150,000 MT
reported previously, increasing the shortfall in all
cereals to 1,300,000 MT (vs. the 1 million MT estimated
previously). With escalating inflation and a relaxation
of price controls, it is believed that more Zimbabweans
will not be able to afford to purchase their food
requirements through market channels this year.
Accordingly, the final VAC increased the maximum number
of food vulnerable people to 4.4 million (from 3.9
million in the prior draft estimate). ZIMVAC findings
were based on random samplings of 2,257 households in
150 sites representing all districts in country, but
they were conducted in rural areas only. The CFSAM
assessment also did not include urban areas, but did
extrapolate an additional 1.1 million food vulnerable in
urban areas, making the estimate of the total number of
people who will require food assistance during the lean
season to be 5.5 million.

12. Additionally, the CFSAM allows for a modest amount
of buffer or carryover stocks at the end of the
marketing year in April 2004 (approximately 180,000 MT
for all cereals), which the ZIMVAC does not. All of
these factors result in an increased food import
requirement in the CFSAM of 1.3 million MT vs. 1 million
MT in the ZIMVAC. With varying estimates of outstanding
and planned "commercial" and food aid imports, the
resultant net food aid requirement for Zimbabwe for the
coming year is estimated at more than 450,000 MT.


13. Preliminary results of the nutrition survey
conducted by UNICEF in cooperation with the GOZ and NGOs
during February 2003 were also presented at the June
RIASCO meeting (despite not yet being officially
released by the government in Zimbabwe). The survey
sample included 50,000 children under five. The
aggregate data indicate that while rates of malnutrition
were essentially stabilized by humanitarian
interventions in 2002/2003, rates of global acute
malnutrition (GAM) in Zimbabwe have deteriorated
slightly since the last comprehensive Demographic and
Health Survey (DHS) survey in 1999. In addition,
"hotspots", where rates of severe acute malnutrition
(SAM) are prevalent, persist, especially in urban areas
such as the high density areas of Bulawayo, Harare and
Mutare, and some rural areas such as Binga and Gokwe.
Worst affected are children aged 12 - 23 months and
orphaned children of all ages.

14. Additional findings of note highlighted by UNICEF
for Zimbabwe were:
-- National averages, e.g., 1.4 percent SAM, mask large
differences among regions and districts. In at least 15
districts, or approximately 25 percent of the country,
SAM levels are above 2 percent.
-- There is a disproportionately high level of SAM in
relation to GAM nationwide, and in mortality among those
children being treated for SAM in therapeutic feeding
centers. (Note: This is believed to be primarily due to
the as yet unmeasured effect of HIV/AIDS in combination
with malnutrition and other opportunistic diseases. End
-- Districts with lower prevalence of malnutrition
deteriorated most since the last nutrition survey in
-- Districts with higher HIV/AIDS prevalence showed
greater deterioration in nutritional status.
-- 17 percent of all deaths recorded in the survey were
of children less than two years of age.
-- Lack of access to food is not the sole cause of
malnutrition. Many other factors, such as care
practice, the presence of a mother, the general health
ambience, access to health care and HIV/AIDS all come
into play.

15. Based on these preliminary results, UNICEF
recommendations for action include: strengthening
nutrition surveillance systems; scaling up programming
around nutrition and HIV/AIDS within an integrated
framework; scaling up feeding programs, both therapeutic
and community-based, in areas of high SAM; refining
program targeting, with an emphasis on orphans and
acutely vulnerable children; and developing a better
understanding of the relationship between malnutrition
in young children and HIV/AIDS. UNICEF has announced
that it will release disaggregated data down to the
district level next week as well as national data on
EPI, access to health care and vaccinations. Analysis
of these data had not been completed when the RIASCO
presentation was made. A more detailed report will
follow when this information becomes available.


16. As noted above and in Reftel B, to date, the GOZ
continues to obstruct the official release of much of
this information critical for planning purposes. In
addition, we have yet to receive any official
acknowledgement from the government of the continuing
gravity of the situation, what they intend to do on
their own to address it and/or any request for
additional international assistance to fill the gap.
With the GOZ grain monopoly still firmly in place, the
private sector remains a non-player in assisting to meet
these considerable food needs. Accordingly, in the
absence of any substantive policy change on this issue,
the significant projected "commercial" imports noted
above (approximately 700,000 MT) effectively represent
anticipated government inputs in this response (as they
did last year). In the absence of any official GOZ
input on their intentions on this subject, it is
becoming increasingly difficult for the international
community to plan the required relief response. This
situation is even more critical in considering the
current "bankrupt" state of the government and economy,
thus raising serious doubts as to the government's
continuing ability to meet these substantial critical
assistance requirements over the coming year.


17. The major implications of the above for USG
assistance over the coming year are:
-- Continuing high levels of vulnerability indicate that
there will be a need for continuing high levels of
assistance, similar - albeit at slightly reduced levels
- to last year to at least maintain the current
increasingly fragile state of the country's most
vulnerable groups. The final magnitude of the
international relief requirements will depend heavily on
the government's commitment and increasingly
questionable capability to meet its projected share of
the relief requirements. Government transparency and
responsiveness, therefore, will be required to
facilitate a timely and effective coordinated response.
Increased pressure on the GOZ to open up grain markets
to private sector players will also be key to
facilitating a robust response to the on-going crisis
(especially in urban "hotspot" areas).

-- Due to the more fragmented nature of the needs,
increased focus will need to be devoted to targeted
assistance (vs. the more "blanket" approaches pursued
last year). One example of this revised approach will
be greater efforts to assist urban nutritional
"hotspots" through such efforts as our recently approved
Market Intervention Pilot Program for Bulawayo set to
get underway soon. This more targeted approach will
require increased government cooperation for timely flow
of essential information needed to effectively target
vulnerable groups. It will also require increased
access by relief agents to all areas of the country
(e.g., ex-commercial farming areas) for effective
targeting of the most vulnerable groups. Finally, with
less "room to spare" as a result of the continuing
nutritional deterioration, and a more fragmented target
population, greater focus on nutritional surveillance
and program monitoring will be required to ensure that
the most vulnerable people are being reached. Again,
GOZ cooperation will be required for program access for
these purposes (which has also been restricted to date).


18. Based on the above, in addition to continuing
substantial quantities of food and non-food assistance,
concerted/renewed efforts will be required this year to
get the GOZ to enact the reforms necessary to facilitate
an effective humanitarian response. In the absence of
significant government movement on the key actions noted
above, the country is doomed to another year of
continuing deterioration in the socio-economic
livelihoods and nutritional status (possibly to critical
levels) of millions of Zimbabweans, and a further
prolongation of the crisis (and concomitant USG and
international relief requirements). Based on the
notable lack of a government response to date, the
Mission remains highly skeptical that in-country efforts
to address these all-too-familiar issues will prove any
more successful than last year. Accordingly, we
suggest high-level UN intervention and greater UN, US
and other public highlighting of GOZ policy failures and
GOZ responsibilities for mitigating the critical needs
of Zimbabweans to assist our own efforts in this regard.

© Scoop Media

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