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Cablegate: Changing Humanitarian Priorities in Zimbabwe

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000349

SIPDIS

AID FOR DCHA/FFP LANDIS, CRUMBLY, MUTAMBA, PETERSEN
DCHA/OFDA FOR PRATT, BARTON, KHANDAGLE,
MENGHETTI, BORNS, MARX, HALMRAST-SANCHEZ
AFR/SA FOR FLEURET, LOKEN, COPSON, BAKER, MACNAIRN
EGAT FOR HOBGOOD, THOMPSON
STATE/AF FOR RAYNOR, DELISI
PRETORIA FOR DIJKERMAN, DISKIN, HALE, SINK,
REYNOLDS
NAIROBI FOR SMITH, RILEY, BROWN
LILONGWE FOR RUBEY, SINK, RUBEY
LUSAKA FOR GUNTHER, NIELSON
MAPUTO FOR POLAND, BLISS, THOMPSON
MASERU FOR AMB LOFTIS
MBABANE FOR KENNA
GABORONE FOR THOMAS, BROWN
ROME FOR FODAG FOR LAVELLE, DAVIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL US ZI
SUBJECT: CHANGING HUMANITARIAN PRIORITIES IN ZIMBABWE

REF: HARARE 256

--------
SUMMARY
--------
1. As Zimbabwe enters its third year of international
humanitarian relief, there has been a shift in the
thinking of the major donors and international
development agencies with regard to how best to address
the crisis. Most donors and NGOs have been responding to
the immediate humanitarian needs -- to identify and feed
highly vulnerable people and to ensure food security
through the provision of limited amounts of emergency
agricultural inputs -- since February 2002. But donors
are increasingly convinced that we cannot continue with
the same approach to humanitarian assistance for several
reasons, including concern over the growing dependency,
limited evidence of serious malnutrition, and ongoing
transparency and coordination problems with the GOZ.
Donors are moving towards a consensus that general food
distributions should be phased out in favor of highly
targeted feeding programs. Surprisingly, the GOZ has come
to the same conclusion -- but for different reasons.-----
--------BACKGROUND-------------
2. The United States Government (USG) has contributed
substantial food assistance to Zimbabwe over the past two
years, through the Office of Food for Peace and the
Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance Development
partners and implementing agencies include: the World
Food Program (WFP), World Vision (WV), Catholic Relief
Services (CRS), and an NGO consortium of WV, CARE
International (CARE), and CRS, known as C-SAFE (the
Consortium for the Southern Africa Food Security
Emergency).
3. "Non-food" assistance through USAID/OFDA has been
focused on agricultural inputs, water/sanitation,
assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs),
humanitarian coordination and information systems.
-----------------------------SHIFTING DONOR PERSPECTIVES-
----------------------------4. Donors, NGOs and
international development agencies have been busy
responding to the immediate complex humanitarian crisis
in Zimbabwe. Their priority has been to target highly
vulnerable people and to ensure food security through the
provision of food aid and emergency agricultural inputs.

5. Lately, however, there is growing concern among the
donor community over whether the on-going humanitarian
assistance programs are the most appropriate
interventions. This concern is the result of a number of
factors, including: (1) fears over the contribution of
general food distributions to increased dependency in the
country; 2) there are public reports in the state-
controlled media that the GOZ's Grain Marketing Board
(GMB) is stockpiling grain, reportedly totalling 240,000
metric tons at present, and still refusing to be
transparent about distribution plans or coordinate with
international relief efforts, while donors have scurried
to import grain to feed Zimbabwe's people; and (3)
malnutrition rates in the country are low and do not
appear to be increasing (many of the acutely malnourished
are likely HIV/AIDs affected).

6. As Zimbabwe enters its third year of international
humanitarian relief, there is a definite shift in the
thinking of many donors and international development
agencies with regard to how best to assist the country.
Development partners are considering ways to inject
activities into their emergency aid programs that will
better promote sustainable livelihoods (see: SEPTEL on
DFID Recovery Workshop) and are designing activities that
steer towards recovery, at least in communal farming
areas (those not subject to fast-track land reform).
They are also discussing phasing out general
distribution, which although already targeted at the most
vulnerable groups, might yet be more narrowly targeted.

----------------------
NEW GOZ PERSPECTIVES
----------------------

7. Surprisingly, the GOZ is also coming to the same
conclusion -- that general feeding programs should be
discontinued. A new Consolidated Appeal has been prepared
by the UN to address the emergency situation in Zimbabwe.
But the government has requested that all reference to
general feeding be omitted from the appeal. Apparently,
the GOZ has not yet decided whether it will request
emergency food aid in the coming year or even renew the
Memorandum of Understanding with World Food Program when
the current one expires in June.

8. At a meeting between the UN and senior GOZ officials,
held in Victoria Falls on the weekend of February 14th,
the GOZ presented several reasons to the UN why they are
dissatisfied with the current status of international
humanitarian assistance in Zimbabwe. According to UN
Resident Representative Victor Angelo, who briefed donors
on Monday, February 23rd, GOZ officials complained that
NGOs implementing humanitarian assistance programs are
creating parallel structures that duplicate government
systems rather than trying to work through the existing
government structures. The GOZ further complained that
NGOs often carry out activities on the ground without
first consulting with government authorities or local
officials. The GOZ stated that general food
distributions are creating dependency among local
populations, and they asserted that future assistance
should be better targeted, most likely focusing on
orphans, the chronically ill, and other highly vulnerable
groups. Finally, they alleged that donors are
exaggerating the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe for
their own political purposes.

9. At his briefing with international donors, the UN
Resident Representative also revealed that the
President's office has instructed relevant ministries to
arrange for the purchase and importation of 800,000
metric tons of grain this year. The President's office
has instructed the Reserve Bank to come up with the
necessary funds, estimated at approximately USD$240
million, to carry out the purchase. Apparently, the GOZ
feels that the combined effect of good rains, economic
gains from its new monetary policy, its existing
grainstocks and the 800,000 MT it plans to import will
obviate the need for continued general food aid
assistance.

10. Comment. Estimates for the 2004 harvest of maize in
Zimbabwe have ranged between 600,000 MT and 1.2 million
MT. With the good rains over the past month, most
observers now believe that the figure will be closer to 1
to 1.2 million MT. If this projected harvest is added to
reported GMB stock of 240,000 MT and planned GOZ
purchases of 800,000 MT, the GOZ would be able to meet
its total maize needs of approximately 1.8 million MT.
If the GOZ is able to reach only half of its optimistic
import plans, then it would still be not that far off
from meeting the country's cereal needs. If these
assumptions bear out, the GOZ would be in a position to
control substantial amounts of food stocks as we approach
the March 2005 election. At the same time, it's
important to recognize that it's still several months
before the harvest and these figures are only
preliminary. Additionally, more important than looking
at the cereal balance sheet (total harvest plus imported
food plus carryover stocks, minus projected consumption
needs and exports) is to look at household access to
food. In the coming months, WFP will be conducting a
vulnerability assessment and FAO will be leading an
annual crop and food supply assessment mission, which
will provide better data on household vulnerability.
Post will keep Washington informed as these assessments
progress. End Comment.

11. Consistent with GOZ statements that it would like to
end large-scale general food aid distribution, the UN
Resident Representative reported that the GOZ intends to
expand its Cash-for-Work programs, which have been
largely under-funded and the subject of numerous credible
allegations of political abuse. The GOZ has asked the UN
to re-focus the CAP towards concentrating on improving
social sector services, focusing on recovery and on food
security for highly vulnerable groups such as those
affected by HIV/AIDS.

---------------------------------------
THE OUTLOOK FOR ZIMBABWE'S VULNERABLE
---------------------------------------

12. Even with good rains, Post and other major donors are
convinced that food security will remain a problem in
Zimbabwe for some time to come, absent a radical shift in
the GOZ's policy approach. At present, many of Zimbabwe's
most vulnerable are relying on food aid to meet their
basic needs. While this forms an important safety net
for the most vulnerable, it has often substituted as
livelihood support, which does little to break the cycle
of poverty.

13. Zimbabwe has recently made modest improvements in
economic policy with the Reserve Bank's new monetary
policy, in particular realizing an exchange rate closer
to market levels. Should economic policies continue to
improve beyond the realm of monetary policy, such that
hyper-inflation begins to recede, the suffering of the
most vulnerable would begin to ease. Unfortunately,
however, there are not signs of the GOZ's willingness to
institute broader economic reforms or, more importantly,
address the underlying political crisis that precipitated
the country's economic downspiral.

14. For these reasons, we expect that under any scenario
certain groups will remain highly vulnerable and will
likely need ongoing humanitarian assistance. These
include chronically ill persons, those infected or
affected by HIV/AIDS or other diseases (in particular
orphans, vulnerable children and the elderly) and
transient people who have been removed from their land
and have no legitimate place to settle.

-------------
CONCLUSION
-------------

15. There is a growing consensus towards eliminating
general food distribution programs in Zimbabwe, in favor
of programs more targeted to reach specific groups of
highly vulnerable. International development partners are
concerned about creating dependency and the continued
lack of cooperation from the GOZ. Donors also recognize
the need for a different approach given that Zimbabwe
will likely be experiencing food insecurity for some time
to come. Coming from a different angle, the GOZ has also
called for an end to general feeding and has requested
changes in the CAP to eliminate any reference to such
feeding programs. This uneasy convergence is an evolving
process. Undoubtedly the GOZ's new stance will present
added challenges for NGOs working in the field, and their
job will only be made more difficult by heightened pre-
election tensions and sensitivities.
SULLIVAN

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