The collapse of the Zimbabwean economy has created a flood of refugees into neighboring South Africa. According to Britain's Sunday Telegraph newspaper, thousands of Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa in just the last month. They are leaving despite the many dangers they face in doing so, including electrified fences along the Zimbabwe-South Africa border and attacks by bandits. One Zimbabwean refugee, a twenty-year-old jobless construction worker, told the Sunday Telegraph that criminals robbed him and beat up one of his friends during their escape to South Africa. "Yes, it's a risk but it is better than being in Zimbabwe," he told the newspaper.
The collapse of Zimbabwe's economy is a result of President Robert Mugabe's destructive polices. The Mugabe regime's reckless attempts to rein in hyperinflation caused by the government's own policies have only made matters worse. At least two thousand businessmen and businesswomen were arrested for allegedly violating government price control policies. There is now widespread hoarding and profiteering by police and government officials. And on top of everything, shortages of basic staples continue. Over the last several months, the Mugabe government violently cracked down on the democratic opposition, imprisoning, abducting, and torturing democracy activists. The government continues to harass the opposition.
The United Nations World Food Program, or W-F-P, says it is stepping up its efforts to provide food assistance to Zimbabwe given deteriorating conditions in the country. The W-F-P has increased its estimate of the number of Zimbabweans who will need food aid from three-hundred-thousand to over four million, and says that it expects to raise the figure again.
In response to the Zimbabwean economy's catastrophic decline, the United States will provide more than forty-seven-thousand metric tons of additional food assistance. This aid will be provided through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s partnerships with the World Food Program and the Consortium for Southern Africa Food Security Emergency. The total U.S. effort will feed nearly one-and-a-half million Zimbabweans until the country’s next harvest in early 2008.
Many brave Zimbabweans from all spectrums of society are fighting to secure freedom and a better life. The United States stands ready to engage a new Zimbabwean government committed to democracy, human rights, sound economic policy, and the rule of law.