Cablegate: U.N./Government/Donors Meeting On The

Published: Mon 3 Mar 2003 09:14 AM
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: U.N./Government/Donors Meeting on the
Zimbabwe Humanitarian Crisis
REF: (A) Harare 293 (WFP Expands Zimbabwe
Distribution During January 2/10/03),
(B) Harare 260 (UN/Donor/GOZ Meeting on the
Zimbabwe Food Crisis dated 2/5/03);
(C) Harare 217 (cable on SE Morris visit)
1. Summary: On February 24, Ambassador
Sullivan, USAID Director Weisenfeld and AidOff
attended the regular bi-weekly U.N.-sponsored
meeting on the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe
with concerned Government of Zimbabwe (GOZ)
and international donor country
representatives. Meeting presentations
focused on food distributions and pipelines,
including the GOZ's Rural and Urban Public
Works (cash-for-work) Program and its
associated Grain Marketing Board food
distribution system, and the status of
on-going and future WFP operations in
Zimbabwe. Additional discussions covered the
status of the on-going national health and
nutrition survey, other planned surveys and
assessments, on-going supplementary child
feeding programs, new donor contributions and
the status of various policy issues related to
the food crisis. Although much information
was discussed, little of it was new or of
substantive import. Nevertheless, the meeting
remains a useful venue to maintain a direct
donor/government dialogue on humanitarian
issues. End Summary.
2. On February 24, Ambassador Sullivan, USAID
Director Weisenfeld and AidOff attended the
regular bi-weekly U.N.-sponsored meeting on
the Zimbabwe humanitarian crisis with
concerned government and international donor
country representatives. The meeting was
chaired by U.N. Humanitarian Co-ordinator
(UNHC) for Zimbabwe (J. Victor Angelo), with
country representatives from WHO, UNICEF, FAO
and WFP. GOZ representatives included the
Minister of Health and Child Welfare (M/H),
Dr. David Parirenyatwa, and senior-level
representatives from the GOZ ministries of
Public Service, Labor and Social Welfare
(M/PS,L), Education, and Small Enterprise
Development. Chiefs of Mission and associated
Donor Agency Heads of most major bilateral
donor countries to Zimbabwe also attended.
3. Following introductory comments, the
meeting commenced with a prepared
presentation, accompanied by a written
handout, by the GOZ Director of Social Welfare
(Mhishi) on the government's cash-for-work
program and related GOZ Grain Marketing Board
(GMB) food sales/distribution activities.
This was the first time the GOZ described to
the donors in any detail the mechanics of its
food distribution programs. The presentation,
however, explained the theory of the programs
and did not address actual, on-the-ground
experience with implementation or allegations
of politicization or corruption. Highlights
of the GOZ's presentation follow:
-A. Rural and Urban Public Works Program (RU-
- As explained by the GOZ representative, the
purpose of the "cash-for-work" program is "to
provide a quick response for the support of
vulnerable households (HHs) and individuals
through cash transfers for labor-intensive
public works co-ordinated by local
authorities" to enable the beneficiaries to
purchase food.
- The chronically ill, elderly and disabled
receive free cash allowances to purchase food
(see GMB distributions/sales system below);
the able-bodied work for their cash/food.
Separate registers for each of these two
categories of beneficiaries are maintained at
the local (village/ward/district) level.
- Benefiting HHs receive ZWD 1500 per month
for 15 days of work (equivalent to 3
persons/HH working five days each per month).
The amount is based on the official controlled
price of maize (ZWD 560/kilogram), and the
fact that this income is only meant to
supplement other sources of income (and is not
meant to satisfy total food requirements).
Participants are paid weekly in urban areas,
and monthly in rural areas.
-Both beneficiaries and projects are selected
by traditional and conventional authorities at
the local level. M/PS,L provides monthly
allocations to each district based on need,
population estimates and drought intensity, as
reflected in various past and on-going
assessments. On average, approximately
ZWD 1 million is provided to each ward in each
district per month.
- To date, the program is operational in all
58 rural districts, and 26 urban areas of the
country, benefiting approximately 1.3 million
HHs on a monthly basis. The GOZ estimates
that approximately double this number (2.7
million HHs) are eligible for participation in
this program.
- No special food purchase arrangements are
organized for program beneficiaries, i.e.,
"once they receive their allowance, they join
everybody else to purchase food (via the GMB
sales/distribution system below)."
-B. GMB Grain Distribution:
- The GMB grain distribution is headed a
National Task Force, chaired by the Minister
of National Security, N. Goche. This Task
Force is responsible for government grain
purchases/imports and allocation of available
stocks to the different regions of the
- Grain distribution is decentralized through
similar GMB and local government Task Forces
at the provincial, district, ward and
village levels.
- The distribution system varies for urban and
rural areas. In urban areas, distribution
flows from millers to retailers for subsequent
sale to consumers through normal commercial
Due to perceived problems with this system
(e.g., alleged private sector hoarding,
conditional sales and black marketeering),
Mhishi stated that the GOZ is now looking at
the formation of Food Distribution Committees
to provide food directly to vulnerable urban
HHs "to ensure transparency and
accountability." [Note: In response to an FAO
query on food availability in one Harare
suburban area, Mhishi characterized the Harare
area as a private sector "free-for-all"
situation under which it was next to
impossible to accurately trace food supplies.]
- In rural areas, grain is distributed through
existing GMB depots and fixed and mobile
"selling points," rather than through
commercial channels. "Beneficiary" registers
are maintained at the local (ward) level by
local authorities. In response to a
follow-up question, Mhishi noted that
government program beneficiaries excluded
beneficiaries also receiving food aid through
WFP and other donor assistance.
- Mhishi described the major constraints to
this system include:
1) inadequacy of grain supplies (leading to
severe shortages, hoarding, black
marketeering and other abuses noted above);
2) transport problems (delays in rail
transport, WFP competition for available
transport assets); 3) cash shortages
(particularly to pay transporters); and 4)
lack of GMB capacity to properly monitor
system operations. In response to a query on
the status of the proposal that of the U.N's
new Relief Information & Validation division
assist the government in meeting these program
monitoring requirements, Mhishi stated that
"this was part of a broader proposal that was
still being considered."
4. The Director of Nutrition (M/H) then
provided a brief summary report on the status
of the on-going national Nutritional/Expanded
Immunization Program survey. Training
was completed in late-January/early-February;
data collection is complete in all districts,
except Binga which is expected to be completed
this week. Data entry is in progress in all
districts, and is expected to be completed by
end-February. Data analysis and report
writing will be completed in early-March, with
a final draft report expected o/a March 17. In
response to a query from SCF/UK on the need
for a more comprehensive "livelihoods"
approach to vulnerability assessment (as
opposed to relying too heavily on nutrition
data alone), the Director noted that this
survey was being closely co-ordinated with on-
going Vulnerability Assessment Committee work,
which would complement the nutrition survey
results with other household-level data.
5. This discussion was followed by a
presentation by WFP Country Representative
Farrell summarizing, the status and future
situation of the on-going international food
assistance program for Zimbabwe. Most of this
information was the same as that reported in
reftel A. Additional highlights included:
- Despite a slower than hoped for start,
operations were generally going well now, with
a solid program pipeline projected through
April 2003.
- WFP projects a shortfall of 73,260 MT in May
and June (approximately half of which is
cereals). This projection, however, was
disputed as not adequately reflecting reduced
beneficiary requirements as a result of the
March/April harvest. Farrell's response was
that while current beneficiary numbers may
decrease during this period, additional
allocations would be required for heretofore
uncovered groups, such as the urban poor and
populations in commercial farming areas that
were becoming increasingly vulnerable.
Farrell also indicated that WFP would continue
to reevaluate its projected numbers of
beneficiaries over the coming months.
- Despite a current serious bottleneck at the
Beitbridge border post (due to GOZ
road/parking rehabilitation work), WFP still
expected to be able to meet its import targets
and pipeline requirements.
- A major problem was lack of (government)
market supplies of food in rural areas; in
many areas, international food aid was
becoming the "vast majority" of available
supplies. In this regard, Farrell noted the
need for more specific and detailed
information on GOZ/GMB distributions and
future import plans and schedules. In
response, the GOZ noted that while we could
"count on" government figures already provided
through April 2003, they had no reliable
information at present on GOZ imports beyond
that time.
- The GOZ expressed their concern that there
were no additional international aid supplies
indicated beyond June 2003 (when the next
"hungry season" begins).
- In response to the stated preference for
wet/blanket (vs. dry ration) supplementary
feeding for children by the M/H, WFP
indicated that it was starting to phase out
its dry supplementary feeding ration over the
next few months in response to the increased
coverage (and preference) for wet/blanket
supplementary feeding programs through
bilateral NGO programs. In the course of this
discussion, M/H's Director of Nutrition
stated that two UNICEF handouts on
supplementary child feeding activities
throughout the country were inaccurate (UNICEF
maintains that they were compiled with full
Ministry knowledge and participation).
6. Following these major presentations, the
U.K. announced a new British Pound 5.35
million contribution to the Zimbabwe relief
effort. Approximately British Pounds 4.1
million of this contribution would be used to
help cover the costs of transporting
Zimbabwe's share (64,000 MT) of the recent
100,000 MT South Africa contribution to the
regional food crisis to Zimbabwe, with the
balance of 1.25 million to be used by WFP for
additional cereals. Thanking the British for
this additional contribution, UNHC Angelo
noted that the Norwegians were also
contributing to the transport costs of this
South Africa maize.
7. Other Points:
- In response to queries regarding the
likely crop harvest prospects, the GOZ
stated that reliable information on the
current season harvest will not be available
until the formal mid-season crop
assessment is completed in March.
- In response to a British query following-up
on various policy issues raised at prior
meetings, the UNHC noted that the recent
Economic Stimulus Package approved by
government (see septels - documentation
expected this week from the Ministry of
Finance) partially addressed several salient
issues such as the exchange rate, fuel prices,
and farmer producer prices for controlled food
commodities. The UNHC also noted that
discussions were on-going on other issues
(e.g., GMB monopoly, joint monitoring of aid,
- The UNHC also made the following
announcements: the Special U.N. Envoys' recent
trip report focusing on HIV/AIDS impacts on
the food crisis is available (see reftel C);
no start date has yet been set for the joint
GOZ/UN commercial farming area survey,
although the questionnaire to be used has been
agreed upon; a Humanitarian Principles
workshop proposed for last week had been
postponed due to the unavailability of key GOZ
participants; and that a group was working on
plans for a major Humanitarian Roundtable for
Zimbabwe for March/April 2003.
- Finally, the UNHC noted that future such
joint UN/GOZ/Donor Meetings would be held
every three weeks (instead of bi-monthly),
with the next meeting scheduled for March 17.
8. Comment: While this meeting demonstrated an
improved flow of information, much of what was
discussed was already known by most
participants, with little new information of
any serious import discussed. However, the
meeting's dynamics suggest an increased ease
and familiarity of all parties with each other
and with the issues on the table. It remains
to be seen, however, if the proposed strategy
of less frequent such meetings will produce
any more productive results. SULLIVAN
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