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China donates food to drought-devastated Zimbabwe

Updated: Mar 24,2016 9:33 AM     Xinhua

The Chinese government donated $24.6 million worth of rice to Zimbabwe on March 23 to help alleviate hunger after a devastating drought that has left up to 4 million people in need of food aid.

Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping announced the donation at a second multi-stakeholder consultative meeting on Zimbabwe’s humanitarian needs jointly organized by the United Nations and the Zimbabwe government.

“After Zimbabwe made an appeal for emergency food aid, China is going to donate rice worth 160 million yuan which is approximately $24.6 million as emergency food assistance,” the ambassador said.

He said the food aid was three times more than the food aid that the Asian country donated to Zimbabwe in 2014.

China stood ready to provide Zimbabwe with more food aid based on the country’s needs, Huang said.

At the meeting, it emerged that more resources were required to mitigate the impact of the El-Nino induced drought which has affected 3 million people as of now although the government and aid agencies project the number to rise up to 4 million people after completion of the second vulnerability assessment.

The Zimbabwean government last month appealed for $1.6 billion to purchase grain and feed the affected people.

An official from the Zimbabwe National Water Authority Taurai Maurukira said the country’s average dam water levels were precarious, sitting at 53.4 percent compared to 71. 9 percent at this time of the year during a normal season.

He said the state entity required $18. 3 million for drought mitigation programs and encouraged the nation to conserve water.

Close to 25,000 cattle had died since the beginning of the year due to the drought and government required $53 million for livestock drought mitigation programs, the meeting heard.

An official with a grain importation taskforce set up to oversee importation and distribution of grain Jasper Marangwanda said Zimbabwe had to date placed orders of maize totaling 469,000 metric tonnes out of the required 700,000 tonnes, of which 44, 360 tonnes had been delivered to date.

The World Food Program (WFP) has since announced that it requires $221 million for Zimbabwe food aid and that it would extend the food relief program to March 2017 in response to the severity of the drought.

The UN recently said it had mobilized $76 million for food aid in Zimbabwe out of a targeted $130 million and that it had reached over 1 million people in need of food aid.

The humanitarian assistance would target vulnerable people such as pregnant and lactating women, children under five years and those living with AIDS, UN resident coordinator Bishow Parajuli said.

Part of the relief efforts would also be targeted at arresting malnutrition in children which is now on the rise due to the drought, he said.

Director of the Meteorological Services Department Amos Makarau said the El-Nino peak was over and that favorable weather conditions were now expected in the country before end of the 2015/16 summer cropping season in two weeks time.