Zimbabwe used to grow so much food that it was known as the “breadbasket of southern Africa.” Zimbabwe also earned enough foreign exchange from such exports as tobacco and minerals that it had sufficient money to cover its food needs during droughts. Today, however, Zimbabwe’s economy is in free fall. Agricultural production is inadequate. And prices of basic goods continue to rise sharply, putting them beyond the reach of most Zimbabweans.
It is unclear whether the Zimbabwean people will have enough food over the coming year. Independent estimates of those who may go hungry this year in Zimbabwe range up to five million people or more.
Tony Hall is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations food and agriculture agencies, based in Rome. On a recent visit to Zimbabwe, Ambassador Hall told reporters, "Today the breadbasket is empty. . . .millions of Zimbabweans face a serious hunger crisis this year."
Ambassador Hall has now asked the Zimbabwean government to remove bureaucratic obstacles so that non-governmental organizations, N-G-O's, can deliver food where it is needed:
"I was told that relief for needy people is being held up by bureaucratic paperwork. U.S. N-G-O's have ten-thousand metric tons of food aid in [the South African port of] Durban, bottled up waiting for import licenses. I have been told by an N-G-O that fifteen-thousand tons of aid is inside Zimbabwe, but permission to distribute has not been granted.... It is a very, very, very, difficult place to work in."
Despite differences with the government, the United States stands ready to send food to Zimbabwe’s hungry people, as it did in the last several years. This year, the United States has already pledged more than fifty-million dollars in emergency food assistance for the countries of southern Africa. Much of this aid will ultimately flow to the people of Zimbabwe, the neediest in the region. The United States will not play politics when it comes to feeding hungry people.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.