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Volume 403: debated on Monday 14 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment she has made of the number of people affected by famine in Zimbabwe; what steps her Department is taking to alleviate the problems; and if she will make a statement. [109166]

Zimbabwe continues to suffer from a major humanitarian crisis. Assessments indicate that 6.7 million people (50 per cent. of the population) required food assistance from December 2002 until the next harvest due in May. However, there has been little access to displaced farm workers or to urban areas where there are serious concerns about vulnerability. Early indications are that this year's maize harvest while double last years will still be 40 per cent. less than required.DFID, have contributed £51 million to help Zimbabwe since the humanitarian crisis began in mid 2001. We are supporting the World Food Programme, which is now feeding 4.6 million people, while government and NGOs are also supplying food. We have directly funded NGOs that are providing supplementary food to 1.5 million, mostly children, pregnant and nursing women and the elderly. We have supported home care programmes for families affected by HIV/AIDS and have provided seeds and fertilisers to 180,000 households to assist food production.The international response has averted a crisis and malnutrition rates have increased only marginally. Adequate supplies of food have been secured until June when the harvest will temporarily improve the situation. However, the disastrous economic policies in Zimbabwe mean that food aid will still be needed particularly for the large numbers of poor who are unable to buy food.