Cablegate: Disaster Declaration for Zimbabwe

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

REFS: (A) 02 Harare 02422; (B) State 283715; (C) Harare
01534; (D) Harare 01950; (E) Harare 01995


1. The Ambassador has determined that the severe and
complex political, economic, social and humanitarian
crises facing Zimbabwe continue to be of sufficient
magnitude to warrant USG assistance and is therefore
exercising the disaster assistance authority, as per
Reftel B and 2 FAM-061-062, in declaring Zimbabwe to be
in a state of complex emergency.

2. While three years of drought have had some residual
effect upon the capacity of some Zimbabwean farmers in
chronically dry regions to continue farming on a
subsistence level, it is disastrous misrule, failed land
reform and ruinous macro-economic policies, not drought,
that are the root causes of Zimbabwe's current complex
humanitarian emergency and more general economic and
social collapse.

3. The GOZ made a formal request to the UN and
international donors for both food and non-food
assistance in late July (Reftel C). Based on the
complexity and magnitude of the crisis, the Ambassador
believes that the Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ) has
neither the resources nor the capacity to respond
effectively to the crisis and that it is in the interest
of the USG to provide humanitarian assistance. As a
result, the Ambassador requests continuing USG assistance
for Zimbabwe.

4. USG humanitarian assistance to date for this crisis
from the USAID/DCHA Offices of Food for Peace (FFP) and
Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and USDA, totals more
than US$360 million. While no additional funding requests
are being made at this time, continuing USG humanitarian
assistance is requested in the areas of food aid, water
and sanitation, emergency health and supplementary
feeding programs, assistance to internally displaced
persons (IDPs), agricultural inputs and technical support
in selected communal areas, and monitoring and
coordination of the humanitarian response in Zimbabwe.
The Mission also requests continuing assistance through
the USAID/DCHA Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) in
the areas of constitutional reform and election support,
independent media, information dissemination, dialogue
and rule of law. END SUMMARY.

5. Although rates of malnutrition are down from last year
(according to the announced results of a not yet released
UNICEF Nutrition Survey done in February 2003), largely
because of the timely response of the international donor
community and the meager May harvest, the threat of
famine and a deepening humanitarian crisis continue midst
a more generalized collapse. This collapse is
attributable to a much broader spectrum of spiraling woes
- the deteriorating economy, immense policy constraints,
the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS, and an increasingly
depleted capacity in the health and social service
sectors. The country is in its fifth successive year of
economic decline and faces critical shortages of foreign
exchange to maintain essential infrastructure, food
staples, potable water, fuel and energy needs. This
implosion is in large part the result of the effects of
the government's failed fast-track land reform program,
which has decimated the country's once productive
agricultural sector and left small and subsistence
farmers without inputs, tillage capacity, technical
support or access to financing.
6. The current inflation rate is conservatively estimated
at over 400 percent and is forecast to reach over 500
percent by the end of the year. The industrial and
agricultural sectors have been severely undermined by the
state of the macro-economy, causing mass unemployment and
worsening rural and urban poverty. State control of
prices, currency exchange rates and a monopoly on the
import and marketing of maize and wheat are
characteristic of an economic framework within which the
economy has contracted by one-third in four years. This
had contributed to greater vulnerability as structural
unemployment is estimated at over 70 percent, and rising,
and as the major sectors generating employment and
foreign exchange continue to contract. Zimbabwe's GDP has
declined 35 percent in the last three years, a fall more
precipitate than any that has occurred in a country not
at war.
7. In addition to the deterioration of the health and
social services sectors because of lack of funding, the
country is also suffering from a loss of skills in the
health and social services sector due to emigration and
HIV/AIDS. The invasive and debilitating effects of the
HIV/AIDS pandemic in Zimbabwe, where over 25 percent of
the sexually active adult population is living with the
disease, exacerbates the current humanitarian crisis at
multiple levels. HIV/AIDS not only increases food
insecurity and decimates valuable human resources but is,
in turn, complicated and fed by the malnutrition and
opportunistic diseases that are byproducts of food
insecurity. As health and public services deteriorate,
the window for possible disease outbreaks opens wider.

8. The UN and the international donor community continue
to stress the need for the GOZ to assume responsibility
for responding to the humanitarian crisis and to
cooperate more fully and openly. As evident in its July
appeal for assistance (Reftel C), the capacity of the GOZ
to respond in any effectual way to the crisis, even to
make the minimal contributions it made last year, has
diminished considerably. The only GOZ contributions noted
in its July request were 284,000 MT of planned
imports/local purchases that have yet to materialize and
an as yet not fully budgeted ZWD 28 billion to continue
its heavily criticized "public works" (cash-for-work)
program over the coming year. [Note: while the official
exchange rate remains ZWD 824: US $1, the parallel market
rate is now ZWD 5,600: US$ 1. End note.]


9. As a result of the continuing severe economic decline,
particularly in the crippled agricultural sector, the
food crisis in Zimbabwe is expected to continue into the
2004/05 marketing year. Projections for Zimbabwe's
2003/2004 agricultural season are bleak, largely due to
worsening input supply and financing constraints. All
major agricultural sub-sectors are expected to continue
their decline, even if the weather is favorable. In
addition to the critical foreign and local currency
constraints, serious shortages of seed, fertilizer, crop
and livestock chemicals, fuel, and agricultural equipment
and spare parts all point towards another sub-standard
harvest in the 2003/04 season with continuing significant
production deficits, food gaps and international
assistance requirements (Reftel E). Both the Crop and
Food Supply Assessment Mission completed by the UN World
Food Program (WFP) and Food and Agricultural Organization
(FAO) and the ZIMVAC (Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment)
forecast severe shortfalls in all staple crop
requirements for 2003/04. Most agricultural experts in
country predict a maximum 2003/04 maize harvest
(Zimbabwe's most important staple crop) of around 1
million MT - similar to last year - leaving a deficit on
the order of 800,000 MT for the 2004/05 marketing year.

10. WFP estimates that up to 5.5 million people, almost
half Zimbabwe's population, will produce insufficient
crops and have inadequate income and other entitlements
to be able to meet even their minimum food requirements
throughout the coming year and will require food aid at
least during the height of the lean season (November -
May). Worst affected are rural Zimbabweans whose
livelihoods are dependent on agriculture, while former
commercial farm workers and their dependents are
especially vulnerable, due to loss of employment and
displacement as a result of the land redistribution
activities. As economic deterioration becomes both more
profound and widespread, however, people in urban and
peri-urban areas are also increasingly unable to fulfill
their minimal food requirements.


11. In response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the
UN formally launched a stand-alone Consolidated Appeal
(CAP) for Zimbabwe in September (Note: The Zimbabwe CAP,
in abbreviated form, had already been included as part of
the UN Southern Africa Regional Consolidated Appeal
released in late July. End note.)(Reftel D). The CAP
notes that Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis has largely
been man-made and that moving beyond emergency to
recovery would only be viable if a wide range of policy
reforms took place. The CAP primarily addresses non-food
emergency assistance in agriculture, water/sanitation,
health, coordination, economic recovery, education and
protection/human rights. Unlike some of the other five
countries in the region, which have experienced varying
levels of recovery in food security, the situation in
Zimbabwe remains grave, is deteriorating further and
accounts for more than half of the aid requested in the
UN Southern Africa Regional Consolidated Appeal (US$309
million: US$195 in food aid and US$114 in non-food aid).


12. On another level, Zimbabwe is now in its fourth
consecutive year of an acute political crisis. The
ruling party, ZANU-PF, has responded to the emergence of
a popular opposition party, the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC), the first serious challenge to its
hegemonic rule since independence, with persistent and
unchecked use of force and repression. Since the defeat
of the national referendum on the GOZ's proposed
constitutional revisions in 1999, followed by the
unanticipated success of the MDC in the 2000
parliamentary polls and the violent and flawed
presidential election in 2002, the political climate has
become increasingly polarized. The formation of
extralegal militia, the politicization of security
forces, and the selective enforcement of the rule of law
by the GOZ have led to systemic and widespread human
rights abuses, including sustained and often violent
harassment of opposition politicians and their civic
supporters. A series of repressive laws passed in 2002
has impinged on the constitutionally guaranteed freedoms
of expression and assembly in an attempt to stifle
dissent and silence criticism of the government. In the
last year, these laws have been used to harass and deport
journalists; initiate politically motivated arrests
across a broad spectrum of society; prohibit peaceful
protests and opposition election campaigning; close down
the only independent daily newspaper; and restrict the
activities of non-governmental organizations. The
politically appointed courts have done little to bring
relief to an embattled population.
13. There is a critical need for crisis mitigation
activities and transitional assistance. Post's
assessment of the current situation points to a need to
improve channels of information dissemination, dialogue
and exchange among all levels of society, from policy
makers to civil society leaders and the general public.
Expanding opportunities for dialogue and supporting
democratic mechanisms will aid the transition process and
help establish a more democratic and transparent practice
of governance in the future.


14. Embassy requests USAID/DCHA/OFDA AND OTI assistance
in developing an integrated strategy to meet humanitarian
needs in Zimbabwe, and to mitigate the deepening
political crisis. Although the embassy is not requesting
any specific emergency assistance at this time, it
anticipates that funded assistance programs will
continue. The Embassy will keep the responsible DCHA
offices informed as additional needs are identified and
requests for assistance are received and reviewed.

15. To the best of our knowledge, no U.S. citizens have
been affected to date by this crisis other than through
the general decline in the national political and
economic environment. The Mission will advise as
additional information becomes available.

© Scoop Media

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